Gypsy and Traveller unauthorised encampments

Central government consultation on powers to deal with unauthorised traveller encampments

In April 2018, an important consultation (link opens in new window) was launched that could revise and improve the powers that we, the police, landowners, and town and parish councils have for dealing with unauthorised traveller encampments.

Last year, Central Bedfordshire had 117 unauthorised encampments, a rise on previous years. This is a national issue, and many other authorities have also seen an increase. However, we know that unauthorised encampments have had an impact on communities in several areas across Central Bedfordshire.

As a result of increasing incidents, we discussed with local MPs the limitations of procedures to deal with such problems. Our concerns were then raised in a parliament debate during October last year.

On the back of that, central government launched a consultation asking about the effectiveness of the current powers which deal with unauthorised development and encampments.

The Minister of State for Housing said that the consultation showed that government wants to understand more about this issue and hear views on the current enforcement powers. The Minister asked whether the existing powers of local authorities, the police, and landowners should be made stronger, and about the effectiveness of court processes; trespass law; and planning enforcement.

As a council, we have responded to the consultation. Whilst we welcome this new consultation, we do want to ensure the government takes this opportunity to put sufficiently robust new powers in place. We particularly want to see revisions that will allow us to move on unauthorised occupants more swiftly, and greater protective controls to prevent re-occupation of a site and the wider area. The consultation (link opens in new window) closed in June.