The DCLG has trumpeted a new Guide on Council and Police powers on ‘Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments’.
A new guide will give more power and a stronger voice to local residents and councillors to challenge council officers if they claim ‘nothing can be done’ about this problem. It follows on from the recently scrapped diversity and equality guidance which discouraged councils from taking enforcement action.
So says the DCLG press release, which also trumpets that ‘New Temporary Stop Notices now give councils powers to tackle unauthorised caravans, backed up with potentially unlimited fines.’
However, the ‘Summary of Available Powers‘ makes clear that the only ‘new’ power is the revocation, on 4 May 2013, of The Town and Country Planning (Temporary Stop Notice) (England) Regulations 2005, removing some restrictions on the use of temporary stop notices against caravans.
The tenor and approach of the DCLG release and the stated purpose of the guidance, have unsurprisingly attracted criticism. Travellers groups have highlighted the lack of duty to provide adequate legal sites, but also highlighted that the DCLG’s original press release included the word ‘blight’ in regard to ‘illegal encampments’, a word that vanished between the release of the embargoed version and the final release.
The purpose of this release is presumably summarised in the paragraph quoted above. It is to place pressure on Councils, or more accurately, to put the perceived blame for the ‘problem’ (the ‘blight’) on councils. But the nature of the language, in a situation where the lack of legal sites is acknowledged to be a large-scale problem, in a now familiar manner, is to largely blame the victim for their situation.