It’s not just the taxpayer paying clean-up bills for travellers' camps, the CLA has warned – farmers and landowners are being hit hard in the pocket too.
It comes as a BBC investigation has discovered that it has cost the public purse almost £2 million in less than three years in the South. The BBC said the bill accounts for more than 1,400 illegal encampments that have been reported since 2015.
But innocent farmers are also hit hard. CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “The cost of dealing with travellers’ camps to taxpayers is considerable, but farmers and landowners are also seriously affected.
“Dealing with, and clearing up after, encampments takes time, money and effort. It can cause huge disruption for farmers, while the clean-up bill often runs to thousands of pounds and it’s the landowner’s responsibility to clean up any fly-tipped waste left behind.
“It comes as a new Farmers’ Weekly poll found that 54% of respondents have endured travellers camped on their farm without permission in the last 12 months.”
Earlier this summer the CLA called for a new offence of criminal trespass for those who enter and occupy private land for residential purposes without consent.
CLA officials told a government review tackling illegal traveller sites that the law in England and Wales should be changed to make it an offence to set up unauthorised residential developments and encampments in the countryside.
A government consultation has been looking into the effectiveness of current enforcement against illegal sites. The CLA said the police and local authorities are often unwilling to assist when unauthorised camps are on private land and do not use current enforcement powers effectively to remove illegal camps.
CLA South East represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
Mr Edwards added: “Illegal encampments in rural areas have a detrimental economic, environmental and social impact on local businesses and communities as well as to the private landowner. The current law is failing and it is time for a new approach.
“Existing powers for removal are not used frequently enough or effectively on private land to ensure swift removal. To really tackle the problem, it is vital to make the law simpler and easier to enforce.
“This can be done by making it a criminal offence to set up an unauthorised residential camp. This would act as a deterrent to those who might consider occupying land without consent and provide greater certainty for the police to act if they understand that an offence has been committed.”
Since 2010, the Government says the number of traveller caravans on authorised sites has increased. However latest figures show approximately 16% of all caravans – around 3,700 – are on unauthorised sites.