Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has today told councils how they should clamp down quickly on illegal encampments and unauthorised traveller sites.
A new guide will give more power and a stronger voice to local residents and councillors to challenge council officers if they claim ‘nothing can be done’ about this problem. It follows on from the recently scrapped diversity and equality guidance which discouraged councils from taking enforcement action.
The summary of legal powers sent direct to all council leaders and published online shows how councils can act quickly. It sets out the robust powers councils and landowners now have to remove unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters from both public and private land, as well as tackling the mess from such sites. Councils merely need the political will to uphold the law while it is particularly important that people are vigilant over the impending bank holiday when unauthorised sites are often more prevalent.
As part of the government’s commitment to protecting the nation’s green spaces, these powers will help protect green belt land and the countryside from illegal encampments. New Temporary Stop Notices now give councils powers to tackle unauthorised caravans, backed up with potentially unlimited fines.
Mr Pickles has revoked previous Equality and Diversity in Planning guidance which said that planning rules should be applied differently, depending on the background of the individuals involved; it recommended equality impact assessments before making planning decisions, and told councils not to take enforcement action against unauthorised travellers.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
I want all councils to be ready to take action straightaway to stop illegal camps and unauthorised sites starting in the first place. Decisive action early on saves money and unnecessary upset for local residents.
We’ve strengthened councils’ powers so they have the confidence to take decisive action. Too often, council officers wash their hands, and say nothing can be done. This is not the case.
The public want to see fair play, with planning rules enforced consistently, rather than special treatment being given to certain groups.
Councils should be ready to take swift enforcement action and use the tough powers available to tackle rogue encampments and sites. Powers that can be used include:
- more powerful temporary stop notices to stop and remove unauthorised caravans
- pre-emptive injunctions that protect vulnerable land in advance from unauthorised encampments
- possession orders to remove trespassers from land
- police powers to order unauthorised campers to leave land
- powers of entry on to land so authorised officers can obtain information for enforcement purposes
- demand for further information on planning works to determine whether any breach of the rules has taken place
- enforcement notices to remedy any planning breaches
- ensuring sites have valid caravan or tent site licences
It sets out that councils should work closely with the police and other agencies to stop camps being set up when council offices are closed.
View the summary document sent to councils.