Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:09

Minister targets illegal travellers sites

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Minister targets illegal travellers sites

PLANS to give councils greater freedom to prevent unauthorised traveller sites being set up have been unveiled by the government.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said the proposals would help prevent long, drawn-out stalemates like the Dale Farm situation in Essex.

Dale Farm was an unauthorised and illegal encampment of travellers established without planning permission.

Owned by members of the travelling community, Basildon Council's attempts to clear the site were the subject of a lengthy legal battle.

One year later, the government wants to give councils greater freedom to choose when to use 'Temporary Stop Notices' in relation to caravans which are used as main residences and are in breach of planning control.

This would be backed up with the potential for heavy fines.

Temporary Stop Notices enable councils to take immediate action against unauthorised development without having to wait for notices to come into effect.

Local authorities must currently wait three days for a Stop Notice or 28 days for an Enforcement Notice to come into effect – by which time it becomes costly and harder to enforce against.

Under the current system, councils are constrained as to when they can use these powers against caravans which are main residences.

The government said it believed the proposals would assist local councils in taking effective action against a small minority of people who sought to abuse the planning system.

Local councils were best placed to judge whether to use a Temporary Stop Notice in relation to caravans and should not be constrained by blanket rules, said Mr Pickles.

Subject to consultation, the proposals would remove restrictions on Temporary Stop Notices and help councils act immediately and safeguard their area from the emergence of unauthorised sites.

This would provide a strong deterrent, the government believes.

Any person guilty of offence would be liable to a fine of up to £20,000, which could be increased to an unlimited fine, on conviction on indictment in the Crown Court.

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