Sharma announces review of illegal encampment powers

Planning minister Alok Sharma has announced that the government is to consult on the effectiveness of enforcement against unauthorised Gypsy and traveller developments and encampments and urged authorities to 'step up to the plate' in providing sites.

Review: minister seeking views on how existing powers can be used more effectively
Review: minister seeking views on how existing powers can be used more effectively

In a House of Commons debate yesterday, the minister said that the government had in 2015 reissued a summary of the "robust powers" to remove unauthorised sites, but added: "I am aware of growing concern that the available powers are not being used fully."

Sharma said that, having reflected on the views about illegal encampments expressed by MPs in previous debates and in letters to the Department for Communities and Local Government, "I can announce that the government intends to consult on the effectiveness of enforcement against unauthorised developments and encampments."

"We want to seek views on whether there is anything we can do to ensure that existing powers can be used more effectively," Sharma said.

"Let me be clear, however: this is not a signal to local authorities and the police that they should wait for the outcome of such a consultation. They have the powers to act, and we except them to act."

Sharma told MPs that the government expects local authorities, "as a minimum, to plan for a five-year supply of deliverable and developable sites for travellers".

He added: "The number of traveller caravans on authorities sites rose from 14,498 in July 2010 to 17,938 in July 2016. We need all local authorities to step up to the plate in providing sites.

"Local authorities that meet their requirements help to limit the prevalence of illegal encampments. We expect local authorities and the police to clamp down on such encampments, but unless there are sufficient sites, the police and local authorities will not be able to use their powers fully."


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