POLICE are to be given new powers to deal with illegal traveller sites, the home secretary has announced.

Sajid Javid said that encampments were causing “distress and misery” to people living nearby and that he was considering making it a criminal offence to set them up.

The announcement followed a government consultation which looked at ways to strengthen public bodies’ responses following calls for better protections for landowners.

Last year, Poole council wrote to the government requesting additional powers to “effectively manage” illegal sites.

Its cabinet member for environment, Cllr John Rampton, described existing laws as “archaic” and said that it had “hamstrung” its ability to respond.

Proposals being considered by the government would make it easier for police to take action against unauthorised camps.

Announcing the plans on Wednesday, Mr Javid said: “The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby.

“There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers and that is deeply troubling.”

Powers being considered by the Home Office include:

  • Lowering the number of vehicles needed to be involved in an illegal camp before police can act from six to two.
  • Giving police powers to direct travellers to sites in neighbouring local authorities’ areas.
  • Allowing police to remove trespassers camped on or beside a road.
  • Increasing the time during which travellers are not allowed to return to a site they have been removed from from three months to a year.

He added that a review would be carried out into whether trespassing to establish a camp should be made a criminal offence.

On top of this, the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is to give councils up to £1.5 million to help carry out enforcement.

And the Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, will be able to review cases when concerns are raised about “too many” camps being reported in one place.