Friday, March 1, 2024

Council and Thames Valley Police address concerns about unauthorised encampments.

West Berkshire Council and Thames Valley Police have been working closely in recent weeks to ensure any issues arising from unauthorised encampments are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Since 3 May, 2018 there have been 22 unauthorised encampments within the district. Most of these have not presented any significant problems but, where they have, Thames Valley Police and West Berkshire Council have worked with travellers and the settled community to address issues as they have arisen.

In order to secure the removal of an unauthorised encampment, the Council must undertake due process and the procedure that we must follow is set out in legislation. This gives the Council powers to direct travellers to leave a particular site, but if that direction is not complied with, the Council must then make a formal application to the Magistrates’ Court to obtain a Court Order to secure compliance. This process can take up to 2 weeks to complete, but it is often dealt with more quickly than that.

After each unauthorised encampment the land is cleared of litter and other rubbish. We also establish the best way to secure land to prevent a reoccurrence. This is part of ongoing surveys of open spaces with a view to target hardening some of our most vulnerable locations. It is not possible however to secure all land.

Discussing the recent encampments across the district, Councillor Jeanette Clifford West Berkshire Council’s Executive Member for Countryside, said:

“I’d like to reassure our residents concerned about traveller encampments, particularly the sites at Thatcham and Theale, that we at West Berkshire Council are doing all we can to deal with the situation.

“We know it’s important to you, it’s certainly important to us, but it’s also important that we act fairly and within the law. We have a very capable team on the ground who are well-accustomed to working with traveller communities as well as with the police. They have a range of powers available to them, which they are ready use where necessary. They do a great job for the district, they work well with the travellers and we expect that they will make great progress over the next couple of days.

“We know that sometimes residents feel that we move slowly in dealing with unauthorised encampments but this isn’t the case. We follow a process properly and we get results. We would like to thank residents for their patience.”

Acting Superintendent Lindsey Finch of Thames Valley Police added:

“I understand that there is a huge frustration in some local communities at the moment. We are in quite an unusual situation as we have had 22 unauthorised encampments across the West Berkshire area since the 3rd May.

“We are working together with West Berkshire Council to assess and manage each of those and our response may be slightly different depending on the circumstances that we are presented with. As police officers, there is legislation that we can use to remove trespassers from land but the National Guidance sets a number of criteria as to how and when we can do that.

“We have used that legislation a number of times already this year and we will continue to do so where it is appropriate. We also have to bear in mind is that we have to consider the needs of all the communities involved whether that’s a business community, the local settled community or the travelling community.

“I would like to reassure people that we are visiting and monitoring all of those unauthorised encampments. We do so on a regular basis, either on our own or together with West Berkshire Council, and we assess levels of criminality as well as the welfare of people who are living on those sites. This helps us to make sure that everybody, is kept safe. We’ll continue to do that and will deal with those situations as and when they arise.”

If you wish to report an issue in your area, please contact:

Thames Valley Police on: 101

West Berkshire Council on: 01635 551111