Sunday, September 23, 2018

Call for new approach to tackle illegal encampments

June 29, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

The Country Land and Business Association has called for a new offence of criminal trespass for people who enter and occupy private land for residential purposes without consent.

The CLA told a government review tackling illegal gypsy and traveller sites that the law in England and Wales should be changed to make it an offence to set up unauthorised residential developments and encampments in the countryside.

A government consultation is looking at the effectiveness of enforcement against illegal sites. The CLA said police and local authorities were often unwilling to help when unauthorised camps were on private land and failed to use enforcement powers effectively to remove illegal camps.

CLA policy director Christopher Price said: “Illegal encampments in rural areas have a detrimental economic, environmental and social impact on local businesses and communities as well as to the private landowner. The current law is failing and it is time for a new approach.”

Criminal offence

Mr Price added: “Existing powers for removal are not used frequently enough or effectively on private land to ensure swift removal. To really tackle the problem, it is vital to make the law simpler and easier to enforce.

“This can be done by making it a criminal offence to set up an unauthorised residential camp. This would act as a deterrent to those who might consider occupying land without consent and provide greater certainty for the police to act if they understand that an offence has been committed.”

In addition, Mr Price said local authorities must provide sufficient permanent or temporary residential sites for the gypsy and traveller community to avoid the problems that arise from unauthorised encampments.

The planning system was being undermined by the problem of unauthorised developments, added Mr Price. More funding was needed to speed up the removal of sites and the enforcement appeals process, he said.

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