Government plans crackdown on illegal traveller camps

The Government is reviewing powers to tackle illegal traveller camps after almost 4,000 caravans were found on unauthorised sites.

Dominic Raab, the housing minister, said most travellers are "decent and law-abiding" people but the Government is concerned about sites that break the law.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said about 3,700 caravans - 16% of the total within the traveller community - were on unauthorised sites.

It says the sites can cause distress to local communities who were worried about fly-tipping and noise.

The department added that unauthorised sites were often not clean and could affect the health of travellers, and also cited a lack of education facilities.

Mr Raab said: "The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people.

"But we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to.

"We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone."

Plans to review powers were first announced in parliament in October.

A consultation is to run until 15 June and will look at what more can be done to allow local councils, the police and landowners to deal with unauthorised sites and developments.

Yvonne MacNamara, chief executive of the Traveller Movement, told The Guardian: "We hope that this consultation addresses and deals with the lack of authorised and safe sites available to the Gypsy and traveller community.

"A lack of funding and political will over many years has perpetuated a severe shortage of sites, which in turn has perpetuated illegal encampments with nowhere else to go.

"The government need to realise that addressing this issue will in turn address the issue of illegal encampments."