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Friday 12 February 2010

Tories promise new laws to evict illegal travellers

Travellers who occupy land illegally will be evicted under laws proposed today by the Conservatives.
David Cameron wants to clamp down on legal loopholes that allow travellers to exploit the planning system.
A new criminal offence of intentional trespass would be created, which would be enforced by the police.
Tension: David Cameron has pledged to crack down on illegal traveller sites, which infuriate local residents
The idea is to prevent landowners being forced to go through protracted legal battles in the civil courts to evict travellers.
The right to claim special treatment under the Human Rights Act would be curtailed because the Tories would replace the contentious law with a Bill of Rights.
Planning rules which compel councils to build sites for travellers on Green Belt land would also be scrapped by the Tories.
They plan to end the compulsory purchase of homeowners' land to enable councils to fulfil their quotas for building traveller sites.
The ability to apply for retrospective planning permission would be ended to stop travellers laying concrete on land over weekends, then putting in planning applications.
Planning officers are unable to evict them while a planning application is pending.
Bob Neill, Tory spokesman for local government and planning, contrasted the difficulties homeowners have in obtaining planning permission to build on rural land with the special treatment given to travellers.
'The British public want to see fair play for all, rather than special treatment being given to some,' he said. 'Labour's changes have undermined community cohesion by creating a legitimate sense of injustice in the planning system.
'Law-abiding citizens understandably have to jump through many hoops to build in rural areas. It's wrong that certain groups have been given a green light to bypass those rules and concrete over the Green Belt when no one's looking.'
The Conservatives are confident that there would not be appeals to the European Court of Human Rights against the new Bill of Rights as Ireland has already introduced similar clampdowns on traveller sites.
They claim that the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 2000, has given travellers the green light to develop camps at will, fuelling community tensions.
Travellers often buy farmland, which is cheaper than land zoned for building, and put illegal encampments on it. They can claim that removing them would be discrimination.
Since the Act was brought in, there has been a four-fold increase in illegal sites being built on traveller-owned land.
Communities Secretary John Denham rejected the Tory criticism, saying: 'There are already tough measures in place for local authorities to use where development takes place without planning permission. Most complaints come from areas where councils have failed to use them.'

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