HC Deb 22 June 1993 vol 227 cc116-7W
Mr. Aspinwall

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what legal action he intends to take to remove(a) the new age travellers and (b) their vehicles trespassing on land at Gipsy lane, Burnett, Avon, owned by his Department; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what measures he intends to take to protect the Wynne family from disturbance arising from trespass of vehicles occupied by new age travellers on his department's land adjacent to their home at Gipsy lane, Burnett, Avon;

(3) what discussions he has held with the chief constable of Avon and Somerset about removal of illegal trespassers from his Department's land at Gipsy lane, Burnett, Avon;

(4) when he intends to introduce measures (a) to end the open-ended financial commitment to meet new age travellers' accommodation needs and (b) to give local authorities stronger powers to deal quickly with illegal camping.

Mr. Baldry

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State directed Avon county council in 1990 under the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to make additional accommodation available for gypsies as only one site had been provided in Avon at that time. It is for the council to comply with that statutory directon and determine where sites should be located.

I announced legislative proposals on 31 March 1993 to give local authorities stronger powers to tackle illegal camping and to repeal the duty to provide sites and the power to provide grant. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend, the Member for Woking (Sir C. Onslow) on 31 March at column 291. But the duty remains in force until it is repealed and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State remains responsible for ensuring that Avon county council complies with the duty and the direction.

PSA services offered this surplus former Crown Suppliers depot at Burnett for sale on the open market in October last year and the council made an offer to purchase the property in order to develop it as a gipsy caravan site. Travellers have camped illegally on the site since the council's intentions became public.

PSA services, as current owner of the site is preparing to take action for possession under order 113 of the rules of the supreme court.

PSA services and its agents, Building Management South and West have liaised with the police on handling throughout, and have had discussions with Mr. and Mrs. Wynne about their position. I understand that a gated fence has been erected to prevent encroachment by the travellers on to Mr. and Mrs. Wynne's property.

It is open to the council to apply for Exchequer grant to cover the capital costs of developing this site if it obtains planning permission to develop it as a gipsy caravan site. Gipsies are defined in the 1968 Act as persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin and it is for the council to decide who is or is not a gipsy, and to ensure that sites are only provided for—and used by gipsies.

The cost of providing an authorised site on this land for gipsies, as defined in section 16 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, has been estimated by Avon county council as £795,500.