Essex: New Traveller Site Powers Unveiled

Councils are going to be given stronger powers to stop illegal travellers' sites being set up in the wake of Dale Farm.

The announcement has been made by Communities and Local Government Secretary, and Brentwood MP, Eric Pickles.

Local authorities are currently constrained in taking immediate action against caravans used as a main residence which they suspect are in breach of planning rules, but Mr Pickles has said the regulations will be scrapped.

The move is aimed at preventing another Dale Farm, where a long-running legal battle was fought before bailiffs moved in to evict travellers from the site in Crays Hill in Basildon.

Mr Pickles said: "Drawn-out cases like Dale Farm threatened to bring the legal system into disrepute: I'm determined that we do all we can to avoid situations like that in future.

"In breach of planning law, travellers move in over a bank holiday weekend and it can take years for councils to remove them. Such episodes give the whole travelling community a bad name and fuel community tensions.

"But these new powers will stop those caravans in their tracks. By making these changes, we will stand squarely behind those who play by the rules and use the full force of the law against those who break them.''

Under the changes, local authorities will be given greater freedom to issue "temporary stop notices'', backed up by potentially unlimited fines, against travellers who attempt to breach planning rules.

The new powers for councils in England will come into force once the current legislation is revoked, which the Department for Communities and Local Government said would happen "at the earliest opportunity''.