THE way illegal traveller camps are dealt with on council land has been updated to speed up getting them moved on.

Blackburn with Darwen’s executive board approved a new policy for managing and dealing with unauthorised camps which sprout up on council land.

Since being introduced, council officials say it has not resolved the whole issue of illegal encampments but has helped in reducing red tape and speeding up the process.

The main changes to the protocol were in relation to a job title, the agencies to contact and welfare assessment reporting.

Conservative group leader John Slater said: “As everyone knows this is one of the biggest banes if you have got spare land in your ward. I’m sure most councillors have had to deal with instances of this.”

Cllr Jim Smith, executive member for environment, added: “The process has been in place for some considerable time – this is just an alteration of method.”

Last week, caravans pitched up at Darwen Resource Centre overnight on Thursday, leading to some health appointments being cancelled.

The site was vacated on Friday after steps were taken to tell camp members to leave.

The policy states Capita, which works with the council to tackle the issue, will notify the police and update legal services before a site visit is carried out by Capita, the highways department and police.

As part of the visit, a 24-hour notice to leave will be issued. These must be approved by legal services.

The code of conduct, which contains different steps camp members must follow, is discussed with them.

The steps include:

* They are told to keep groups small and inconspicuous and drive and park vehicles safely.

* They are reminded not to engage in vandalism or criminal damage.

* Members of the camp are told to look after the land and not to cause problems for people nearby.

* Camp members are told to co-operate with those responsible for the land and not to park on land needed for any other purpose, like parks, playing fields and playgrounds.

* And they are advised not to dirty the site with human or other waste.

* They must consider the dangers of fire, electrical cables and generators and passing traffic, and keep animals under control.

* They must not block rights of way or intimidate or threaten the landowner.

* Once an agreed period of time has passed, they must vacate the site and not return to it.

* They must not run generators after 10pm or before 7am in residential areas.

* They are told not to make noise during darkness, not to go to the toilet in public view and to respect the local community.

Once the code of conduct is discussed, welfare checks are carried out and information is gathered. The visiting officer then talks to other agencies including safeguarding and inclusion teams.

If the decision to evict is authorised, Capita then checks whether the camp has moved on.

If not, legal services are informed and court proceedings will begin.
An application is lodged at county court and papers are served on the camp with hearing date details.

Council officers attend the hearing date to seek a possession order.

Once granted, it is served on the camp by Capita and police, giving them 24 hours to leave the site. If they do not leave, legal services will apply for a warrant of possession which is also served on the camp, giving them another 24 hours to leave.

After that, police and bailiffs are able to enforce the eviction order. Once the camp has left, the environment department arranges to clean the site.