From Central Bedfordshire Council:

Last year, Central Bedfordshire had 117 unauthorised encampments, a rise on the previous year. This is a national issue, and many other authorities have also seen an increase. However, we know that unauthorised encampments have had an impact on residents and town and parish councils in many areas across Central Bedfordshire.

As a result of increasing incidents, we shared our frustrations with local MPs about the procedures that deal with such problems. Our concerns were then raised in a parliament debate during October last year.

On the back of that, central government has now launched a new consultation asking about the effectiveness of the current powers which deal with unauthorised development and encampments.

Dominic Raab MP, Minister of State for Housing, said that the consultation shows that government wants to understand more about this issue, and hear views on the value of current enforcement powers. Within the consultation the Minister is asking whether the existing powers of local authorities, the police, and landowners should be stronger, and the effectiveness of court processes; trespass; and planning enforcement.

Whilst we welcome this new consultation, we do want to make sure the government does take this opportunity to put sufficiently robust new powers in place. As a council we will be responding to push for greater powers and quicker processes. We particularly want to see revisions that will allow us to move unauthorised occupants on more swiftly, and greater protective controls to prevent re-occupation of a site and the wider area.

The consultation document is a series of questions that are easy to read and respond to. We urge you to also have your say too so that the government is fully aware of how this issue impacts on residents and parishes. The consultation closes on 15 June. 

What & how to let the Government know:  Examples of 'what': trespassing should be made a criminal offence (like Ireland); removal of 6 Caravan threshold before Police can act; District Councils must provide modern transit sites, as well as temporary sites; reinstate the same planning standards for all; set up specialised Planning Inspectorate with expertise in this topic; treat all unauthorised development the same for all, so that 'very special circumstances' which allows building on Green Belt cannot be granted.