Thu, 14 Jun 2018
TIME is running out for West Berkshire residents to fill out a consultation in a bid to change how the government deals with unauthorised and illegal traveller encampments.
The consultation, which closes tomorrow (Friday) at 11.45pm and is supported by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, asks a series of specific questions relating to local authority and police powers.
It also examines court processes, trespassing, planning enforcement, the provision of authorised sites and the impacts on the travelling community.
It comes after Thames Valley Police and West Berkshire Council revealed they have dealt with 22 unauthorised traveller camps since the start of May.
In recent weeks, members of the travelling community have pitched up in several locations across West Berkshire, including Stroud Green, Thatcham, Tidmarsh, Englefield and Theale.
Further down the M4, Reading’s Prospect Park and a stretch of green along the Portman Road have also seen encampments.
More recently, a group have gathered on a patch of land behind the Tilehurst Triangle.
Last week, villagers in Theale armed themselves with spades to dig a trench around Woodfield Way in a bid to stop groups returning to the area – prompting an emergency public meeting between authority representatives and residents.
Reading West MP, Alok Sharma, also present at the meeting, urged residents to fill out the consultation, which he launched in April as part of a review following Parliamentary debate over dealing with traveller encampments last autumn.
Also in attendance at the meeting was Jeannette Clifford, West Berkshire Council’s portfolio holder for transport and the countryside, who said she understood why residents in Theale are angry and frustrated.
She said: “It was valuable to hear these views expressed at first hand.
“Most travellers are decent and law-abiding citizens, like everyone else.
“So it’s a shame when a few damage the reputation of a whole community – and there’s no doubt that the reports of what Theale endured are shocking.”
She continued: “Many people at the public meeting said they wanted the law to change.
“I urge them and others to respond to the government’s consultation on the effectiveness of powers for dealing with unauthorised encampments before it closes on Friday.”
To access the consultation, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/powers-for-dealing-with-unauthorised-development-and-encampments