Government plans to crack down on illegal traveller sites

England, Wales

In good news for landowners, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced draft measures to make it easier to remove travellers from land they should not be on.  This is particularly relevant for those impacted by fly-tipping activities (see our earlier Law-Now here and here) as, whilst we have seen support from the court to enable quick action anything that speeds up the process of recovering possession would be welcome. 

The Home Secretary is also considering making it a criminal offence to set up traveller sites.  Occupying non-residential, open land is currently defined in law as trespass, which is civil, rather than a criminal, matter.

Extra funding is promised

The Government will give local authorities practical and financial support to handle unauthorised encampments.  There is a commitment to give councils up to £1.5 million of extra funding to help them enforce planning rules and tackle unauthorised sites, with funding also available under the £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme.

The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.

Extra practical support

As well as funding, the Government will consider making information available about the location of legal sites, to make it clear which authorities are not offering their fair share of traveller facilities. Under new guidance, the Communities Secretary will review cases where there may be too many authorised traveller sites in one location.

Criminalising the act of trespass

Importantly for landowners, the Home Office will review whether it should criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an encampment, which would allow the police to respond more quickly and take tougher action.

The Home Office will also consult on proposals to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to:

  • Reduce the number of vehicles needed to be involved in an illegal camp before police can act.
  • Give the police powers to direct travellers to sites in neighbouring local authorities (currently, they can only direct trespassers to sites in the same area).
  • Allow officers to remove trespassers who are camping on or beside a road.
  • Increase the time during which travellers are prevented from returning to a site they have already been removed from.

The proposed changes apply for England and Wales only.