Pickles promises councils new powers to prevent illegal encampment PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 12:38

Local authorities will be given new powers to issue ‘stop notices’ preventing travellers from moving onto property in breach of planning laws, the Communities Secretary has announced.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Eric Pickles said councils would also have the ability to issue unlimited fines for those who ignore planning laws.

He told delegates: “Long-drawn out cases like Dale Farm have brought the legal system into disrepute. You know the story: in breach of planning law, travellers move in over a bank holiday weekend, and it takes years for councils to remove them.

“A small minority exploit Labour's human rights and equality rules and have cost taxpayers millions of pounds. Such episodes give the whole travelling community a bad name and fuel community tensions.”

Pickles claimed that the new powers, which would be subject to consultation, would “literally stop those caravans in their tracks”.

He added: “We will stand by those who play by the rules, and use the full force of the law against those who break them.”

The Communities Secretary’s announcement was welcomed by Cllr Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, which was at the centre of the Dale Farm dispute.

He said: “This is an area where over the years law abiding local people have not always been best served by a law which has at times provided too many apparent loopholes and opportunities for those who were breaking the law in the first place.

“In Basildon it took us ten years of legal wrangling and many millions of pounds of tax payers’ money to clear, what was always, an illegal traveller settlement. Any new law which will protect communities across the country from a recurrence of Dale Farm is very welcome.”

The Communities Secretary meanwhile insisted that the Green Belt would remain protected following the Government’s shake-up of the planning regime.

He told conference delegates: “We've introduced a new protection for valuable green spaces and have given councils new powers to stop unwanted garden grabbing.

“Now, there's been a lot of press speculation in recent weeks on the Green Belt.
Protecting the character of the countryside is stamped deep into the heart of Conservativism.
And I want to be absolutely clear – the Green Belt plays a vital role in stopping urban sprawl – and we will protect it.”

Pickles said that the Government would be tough on those breaking environmental safeguards.

“We are helping councils tackle the rogue landlords who build ‘beds in sheds’ - which house and exploit illegal immigrants,” said. “We have outlawed squatting in people's homes. Invade someone's house and you now go to jail.
We've handed councils the powers to close down the protestors' shanty towns that blighted the likes of Parliament Square and St Paul's.”

In other announcements, the Communities Secretary revealed that the Department for Communities and Local Government would be “talking direct to tenants” to inform them of their Right to Buy.


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