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On-the-spot fines for travellers setting up in Mansfield may be on the way, says county council

Councils may be able to seize assets of travellers in future
Councils may be able to seize assets of travellers in future

Better and more streamlined powers are needed to evict travellers who are trespassing, according to Nottinghamshire County Council.

The authority said it has had at least 17 unauthorised encampments on its land in the last two years, and that on one occasion it took 17 weeks to evict a group of travellers.

The council suggests that having the power to issue on-the-spot fines or to seize assets of repeat offenders could act as a deterrent, but may also cause public order issues.

Simplified powers would make it easier for the council to evict travellers efficiently, and speeding up the process would limit the impact on the settled community who live near to where the travellers are, the council said.

The Conservative-led authority was responding to a Government consultation on the range of powers available to councils to deal with unauthorised encampments, which was launched in April.

The draft response, expected to be finalised on tomorrow, lays out many of the difficulties in dealing with evictions.

But it also says progress is being made, and that there is now increased co-operation between different authorities.

A county-wide system to share information and best practice has now been set up, involving all district, borough, city and county councils.

The consultation response considers the effectiveness of on-the-spot fines.

It says: “If there is evidence of the same people returning after a possession order the ability to issue on-the-spot penalty fines or seize assets may discourage repeat offending.

“However, this action may result in public order issues and further fractures in the cohesion between settled and travelling communities.”

The consultation response continues: “In Nottinghamshire a countywide network has been established with the aim of developing consistent approaches by the police, county, city and the seven borough and district councils.

“This network is a recent development and all partner organisations recognise the issues faced by both the settled community and travellers.”

The council also says that it hopes to improve its communication with people who live near where travellers have set up camp.

It says: “A key area that will be worked on is improved communication with local communities when an encampment occurs.

“A focus of this will be to share where possible as much information about the circumstances around the encampment and the plans and powers being used by the landowner to resolve the situation.”

The consultation closes later this month, with the findings expected to be released later this year.

The Government says that since 2010, the number of traveller caravans on authorised sites has increased, but around 16 percent of all caravans – around 3,700 – are on unauthorised sites.

Speaking as the consultation was launched in April, the Conservative Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people.

“But, we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to.

“We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”