SOUTH Essex MPs have welcomed plans to give police forces and councils more stringent powers to remove illegal traveller encampments.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP yesterday announced options to increase police forces’ power including allowing officers to direct trespassers to a suitable authorised site nearby.

Other plans include increasing the period of time a trespasser ordered to leave a site would have to stay away from three months to 12 months.

A public consultation on the changes will be launched soon.

South Essex MPs have welcomed the announcement.

Stephen Metcalfe, Conservative MP for south Basildon and East Thurrock, said: “I welcome that Britain is home to a wide variety of cultures including the traveller groups, but crucially the same rules must apply to all members of society equally.

“This is why I called for the law to be strengthened to enable the police and councils to take swift action and evict illegal encampments.

“Councils and private landlords have too often paid thousands to correct the environmental damage left behind.

“I am therefore delighted at the Home Office announcement to consult on a range of new police powers.”

Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois, said: “In June of last year, I coordinated a letter to James Brokenshire from 60 colleagues asking the Government to tighten the law on illegal traveller encampments and, in particular, to adopt the so-called Irish Option.

“I am therefore delighted to see the Government announced a review to see how this can now be brought into effect.

“I have been lobbied for years by constituents on this controversial issue and I am pleased to see senior Ministers like Sajid Javid and James Brokenshire have listened.

“Along with my colleagues, I shall follow these developments very closely.”

South Essex has battled with various issues with illegal traveller camps.

Dale Farm, in Crays Hill, was one of the largest traveller concentrations in the UK.

A spike in the number of illegal plots led to Basildon Council conducting a ten-year legal battle in the High Court to evict the travellers.