CONCERN is rising over a surge in illegal encampments with plans in place to secure sites subject to repeat offending.

West Berkshire councillors have dealt with 22 unauthorised cases since the start of May with the help of Thames Valley Police.

They have also hit back at criticism from residents, who feel the process to remove the travellers is slow moving.

Although most of the incidents were dealt with in a timely fashion, other cases forced the authority go through the courts in order to resolve the matter.

Police know there is 'huge frustration' in certain areas where travellers have refused to move straight away.

Councillor Jeanette Clifford, executive member for countrysides, said: “I would like to reassure our residents concerned about traveller encampments, particularly the sites at Thatcham and Theale, that we at West Berkshire Council (WBC) are doing all we can to deal with the situation.

“We know it is important to you, it is certainly important to us, but it is also important that we act fairly and within the law.

“We know that sometimes residents feel that we move slowly in dealing with unauthorised encampments, but this is not the case. We follow a process properly and we get results. We would like to thank residents for their patience.”

Neighbouring authority Reading Borough Council spent around £95,000 on dealing with illegal traveller camps in 2017.

Concerns have been raised about future problems, after plans for a dedicated site at Richfield Avenue was recently tipped for a new 900-place secondary school.

Lindsey Finch, acting superintendent of Thames Valley Police, added: "I understand that there is a huge frustration in some local communities at the moment.

"We have used that legislation a number of times already this year and we will continue to do so where it is appropriate.

"I would like to reassure people that we are visiting and monitoring all of those unauthorised encampments. We do so on a regular basis, either on our own or together with WBC.

"This helps us to make sure that everybody, is kept safe. We’ll continue to do that and will deal with those situations as and when they arise."