COUNCILS should be quicker to clamp down on unauthorised encampments and traveller sites, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said.
Mr Pickles has issued new guidelines reminding local authorities in England of their legal powers to deal promptly with illegal traveller sites reports the BBC.
The Local Government Association said councils were prepared to take “swift and robust action” in such situations.
The Gypsy Council said more legal sites need to be created for travellers.
Mr Pickles said his move would give a stronger voice to local residents and councillors to challenge officials.
But Joseph Jones, chairman of the Gypsy Council, accused the government of “reinforcing negative stereotypes” about travellers.
“It’s creating tension, it’s a negative thing to do,” he told Sky News.
“Local authorities already know how to manage unauthorised encampments, they don’t need the government to tell them how to do it.
“This latest statement Mr Pickles has put out doesn’t have anything new in it. It doesn’t have any new powers or anything like that.
Decisive action early on saves money and unnecessary upset for local residents”
Mr Pickles said the recently scrapped Equality and Diversity in Planning guidance discouraged councils from taking enforcement action.
The guidance for local councils and landowners covers unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters on both public and private land.
It also deals with the problem of the clear-up operation on such sites.
Mr 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.”
Powers available to local authorities include temporary notices to remove unauthorised caravans, pre-emptive injunctions that protect vulnerable land in advance, and possession orders to remove trespassers from land.