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New powers to stop traveller encampments are 'positive'

Wells MP James Heappey

The MP for Wells has backed Government plans to change the rules on traveller encampments - saying it's 'an issue that matters to thousands of local residents'.

James Heappey has been campaigning for new powers following a number of incidents across Somerset and Dorset in recent years.

Under the plans police would be able to direct trespassers to suitable sites for them - which have already been created - including in neighbouring counties.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said the Government has been 'deeply troubled' by the widespread perception that the rule of law does not apply to those who choose a nomadic lifestyle - and the sense that available enforcement powers do not protect settled communities adequately.

Mr Heappey said: "Illegal encampments have angered thousands of constituents and cost our local councils hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

"These changes to the law will make it easier for the police to intervene and move illegal encampments on more quickly.

"The commitment to look at criminalising illegal trespass is particularly welcome as it will end the current cat and mouse game of civil proceedings needing to be brought and encampments remaining only for as long as it takes local authorities to complete the legal process and bring the matter to court. 

"If we succeed in criminalising illegal trespass, the crime will have been committed the moment an encampment is formed which will act as a significant deterrent.

"I've been working hard on this issue for a number of years and I’m delighted that the Government has responded so positively. 

"This is an issue that matters to thousands of local residents and I hope these law changes can be enacted quickly so people can see the benefit on the ground."

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