Unathorised traveller camp numbers tripled last year, figures reveal

Last year Wycombe District Council was forced to spend 41,000 on removing 210 tonnes of rubbish from a building site in Wycombe, off Marlow Road, after a group of travellers set up camp in the area.
Last year Wycombe District Council was forced to spend 41,000 on removing 210 tonnes of rubbish from a building site in Wycombe, off Marlow Road, after a group of travellers set up camp in the area.

The number of unauthorised traveller camps moving into Bucks has tripled in a year, shocking figures reveal.

In 2016/17 a total of 10 unauthorised camps were set up in the county – compared with a staggering 33 in 2017/18.


However, despite the vast increase in camps, the average time it takes for the land to be cleared has remained steady at 10 days, according to figures published by Bucks County Council.


Last year Wycombe District Council was forced to spend £41,000 on removing 210 tonnes of rubbish from a building site in Wycombe, off Marlow Road, after a group of travellers set up camp in the area.


Councils across Bucks are now exploring the option of potentially finding land for a traveller transit site in the county.


The plot of land, where travellers would have to pay to stay, would give police the powers order the groups to leave council land quickly and move to a holding location within an agreed time.


Cabinet member for planning and environment at BCC, Bill Chapple, said: “Unauthorised encampments are dealt with by local authorities using powers under S77 & S78 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994.


“The work is carried out locally between the county council, district councils and Thames Valley Police.


“From time to time, the circumstances can change in Buckinghamshire particularly for events like marriages and funerals.


“We also have a duty of care to carry out welfare checks and when travellers are on council land we may take legal action to evict them where proportionate to do so.


“The average time of an unauthorised encampment in Buckinghamshire is around 10 days, however there is currently no national target.


“We have also led on the drafting of a new Memorandum of Understanding to help improve the way partners work together locally to deal with unauthorised encampments going forward.”


In the first instance it is down to the landowner to order travellers to leave privately-owned land – however the responsibility may be transferred to the police or councils if there is an issue with anti-social behaviour.


Bucks County Council and Thames Valley Police have reviewed their protocols on removing travellers from unauthorised sites, amid confusion over which authority takes the lead.


The councils established BCC would take the lead in removing groups of travellers with vehicles, district councils are tasked with dealing with tented communities, while TVP would take charge if there is any antisocial behaviour or crime and disorder.