Travellers face eviction powers
By BBC News – Friday, 5 July, 2002
Copyright: BBC News
Police could be given new powers against unauthorised traveller camps in what ministers are calling a “radical overhaul” of existing measures.
Travellers can currently only be evicted if there has been criminal damage or anti-social behaviour on campsites.
The new powers could be used without that condition but only in areas where local councils have provided temporary sites for regular travellers.
Ministers are planning to help councils fund new temporary camps, as well as continuing to help refurbishing existing local authority sites.
Unauthorised camps have frequently caused rows between travellers and angry local residents in many parts of the UK.
Help for local councils
Authorised council sites have also prompted planning rows.
Full details of the plans, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Office, will be announced in the autumn.
The government is stressing that “tough” new police eviction powers must be linked to the availability of legal sites.
That money is set to be put forward in 2003 along with a new look to the next round of the gypsy site refurbishment programme.
The government has, however, yet to say how much money it will provide.
New national guidance is being put out on dealing with unauthorised camping.
No ‘blind eye’
Ministers say those guidelines will be shaped by the views of residents, business people and farmers, as well as travellers.
A government spokesman said: “The new guidance will in particular emphasise the need for effective local strategies.”
Those strategies needed to make clear where police and local councils took the lead.
Housing Minister Tony McNulty said the plans would help councils deal with the problem of unauthorised camps.
“Our strategy is balanced and fair,” said Mr McNulty. “
“The same standard of behaviour of travellers should be the same as that expected of the settled community and does not mean turning a blind eye to anti-social behaviour.”
Room for caravans
In January this year there were 325 local council traveller camp sites with room for more than 5,000 caravans.
The government says that national network can accommodate “just under half of gypsy caravans”.
But local councils are also told to consider providing places with basic waste, water and toilet facilities where travellers who visit their areas regularly can stop.
Police recently moved on travellers from land owned by exclusive Berkshire school Eton College because they believed there had been criminal damage.
Three years ago, then Home Secretary Jack Straw was accused of racism by travellers’ leaders.
Mr Straw has provoked a storm of controversy after suggesting groups of travellers were trading on a sentimental “gypsy” image while committing serious crimes.