MPs backs tough crackdown on illegal traveller camps in Harborough
Offenders could be fined up to £2,500 or jailed for up to three months if they set up unauthorised sites
A tough new crackdown on illegal traveller camps is vital to keep villages and towns in Harborough “safe”, South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa is insisting.
The Conservative MP said local authorities have had to struggle to tackle these sites for far too long – causing “significant damage” to the district’s vulnerable rural communities.
Alberto spoke out as the Government’s warning that offenders could be fined up to £2,500 or jailed for up to three months if they set up unauthorised camps is also being backed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien.
New measures will mean a new offence of residing in a vehicle on land without consent and failure to leave without reasonable excuse once asked by the occupier or the police.
It will also be an offence to return within 12 months of the request being made - and anyone flouting the law faces three months behind bars.
Police are also being handed new powers to seize property, including vehicles.
Alberto said: “I very much welcome these new proposals outlined by the Home Secretary in order to tackle illegal encampments.
“This has been a long-standing issue of concern for rural communities in South Leicestershire for some time.
“So I am delighted to see the Government taking firm and decisive action in giving police the powers they need to deal with these encampments in a firm and timely manner.”
He declared: “For far too long there has been a distinct lack of clarity on how these encampments should be dealt with.
“And often the local authority would be required to undertake a costly and lengthy judicial process.
“Sadly these delays have caused significant damage at the expense of our rural communities.
“These measures are both needed and necessary to keep our villages and towns safe.
“I look forward to seeing the new Bill being brought forward in the House of Commons very soon.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said he had raised the thorny national issue with Government Ministers after being urged to act by worried people across the district.
“Powers to remove trespassers on land will also be strengthened.
“The new measures proposed are very welcome.
“It’s important to say that the vast majority of travelling communities live in caravans on authorised traveller sites and are law-abiding citizens.
“But for those who choose not to follow the law, these stronger measures will hopefully assist the authorities in dealing with this – and the negative image of the travelling communities they convey,” said Neil.
“This is something I have raised centrally with Ministers on the back of constituents across Harborough contacting me with their concerns. “I’m sure they will join me in welcoming these additional measures to ensure unauthorised encampments can be tackled effectively.”