POLICE and local authorities could get new powers making it easier to remove illegal traveller encampments.

Home secretary Sajid Javid set out draft measures this week aimed at making it easier for officers to intervene and remove travellers from land they should not be on.

Mr Javid said he wants to counteract the widespread idea that “the law does not apply to travellers”.

It follows a summer in which multiple camps were set up in illegal spaces across the borough, often in Farnworth, Kearsley and Little Lever.

Residents have frequently complained about anti-social behaviour around these sites and on one occasion a community group was set up to repair a school field in Kearsley left badly damaged by a traveller camp.

Currently, illegal camps are view as trespassing, which is a civil matter when viewed by the courts but Mr Javid is considering making the issue a criminal offence.

Responding to the announcement, Farnworth representative Cllr Paul Sanders, said it was “encouraging” to see Mr Javid focus on changing the laws surrounding traveller sites.

He said: “Each year residents in Farnworth and Kearsley experience unauthorised encampments by travellers on land nearby. This not only disrupts residents’ lives but raises concerns about anti-social behaviour, noise and flytipping. The clean-ups afterwards can be costly for the taxpayers and in some cases it has fallen on the good will of our community to clear up and strengthen defences.

He added: “I would urge Bolton Council to seek its fare share of the extra funding which has been announced by the government for councils to use in taking enforcement action against unauthorised traveller sites.”

The government has already committed to giving £1.5m to councils to help tackle these sites.

The plans follow an initial consultation to look at strengthening the response to sites, following calls for new measures to protect landowners and residents.

Mr Javid said: “The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens - but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby. There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers and that is deeply troubling. The result of our initial consultation was clear - people want to see greater protection for local communities and for the police to be given greater power to crack down on trespassers.”

The consultation response suggested travellers moving from place to place was a major factor in causing problems – so councils will be reminded of their existing obligation to provide enough “transit sites”.

These sites reduce the risk of illegal camps being set-up on people’s doorstep so problems are not simply shifted on to neighbouring areas.

As part of the measures, ministers will consider making data available on where legal sites are so it is clear which authorities are not offering their fair share of traveller facilities and the communities secretary will step in and review cases where there are concerns raised.