Many people across Finchley and Golders Green will have been affected by traveller encampment. These are, unfortunately, a regular occurrence across both our area and across London. We have recently seen them at Cricklewood B&Q and on TfL property at Henlys Corner.
For various reasons, progress in resolving these situations can often be slower than many would like. The Government recognises that these unauthorised encampments can cause settled communities significant distress, and for some they perpetuate a negative image of the travelling community, the vast majority of whom are law abiding citizens.
Following a consultation launched in April last year, in which the government listened to the views of a number of stakeholders, from local authorities, police, the general public, and travelling communities themselves, the government have announced a number of measures that will soon go out to public consultation. These measures include:
- Permitting police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authorities. Currently, the police can only direct trespassers to sites with the same local authority area.
- Increasing the period of time in which trespassers directed away from land would be unable to return. Currently, this length of time is three months, but the proposals suggest increasing this to twelve months.
- Lowering the number of vehicles needing to be involved before police powers can be exercised. Currently, this is six or more, with proposals changing this to two or more. This will increase the opportunity for police intervention and make it more difficult for trespassers to split into groups to avoid enforcement.
- Enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway. The police are currently restricted unless there is a suitable pitch in the same local authority area.
These proposals will ensure that unauthorised encampments can be properly dealt with, giving police sufficient powers to be able to do so. The Home Office has committed to working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Ministry of Justice on this important issue.
Commenting, Mike Freer MP said, “I welcome these positive steps forward towards ensuring that illegal traveller encampments can be dealt with in a timely manner. I am pleased that the Government is committed to dealing with the problem, and I eagerly await the outcome of the consultation on these proposals”.