James Heappey MP welcomes Government ambition on tackling illegal traveller encampments

Wells MP James Heappey has welcomed the scope of the Government’s consultation on tackling illegal traveller encampments. 

Housing Minister Dominic Raab has launched a consultation to address this issue and will assess if court proceedings can be sped up to ensure these encampments are moved on as quickly as possible.

In Ireland it is an offence for any person to enter and occupy land without the owner’s permission, or bring any object on to the land, if it is likely to “substantially damage” the land or interfere with it.

This means police have discretion to direct trespassers to leave land if they suspect that this offence is being committed and any failure to comply with a direction is punishable by a fine and/or one-month prison sentence.

Mr Heappey has been campaigning for these tougher laws after a number of incidents in his constituency. Over the past two years, there have been illegal encampments in Berrow, Street and routinely in the car parks and sports club of Burnham-on-Sea, as well as in Shepton Mallet and Brean.

Following the news of the consultation, Mr Heappey said: “I have been pushing the Government to be ambitious in the scope of its review in to dealing with illegal traveller encampments.

“It is great the Government has responded in the way that they have. The trespass laws introduced in Ireland have proven to be a huge success in tackling illegal encampments there.

“I hope the review finds a way of delivering similar powers in the UK. We have been particularly affected by illegal encampments in the Wells constituency over the last few years. All that any of us are asking is that both travelling and settled communities live by the same laws.”