EFFORTS to make it easier for police to remove illegal encampments – currently being discussed in Westminster – have been welcomed by Alok Sharma MP.

Draft measures set out by the Government are due to be considered by the Home Secretary, in an effort to introduce stricter laws against travellers.

Discussions are taking place about making trespassing a criminal offence, as opposed to a civil matter.

The MP for Reading West launched a petition within his constituency on this very issue, with more than 2,000 residents calling for a change in the law.

Mr Sharma said: “I am absolutely delighted at the announcement from the Government of the new measures to assist law abiding citizens.

"I am pleased that a change in law when it comes to trespass is actively under consideration. My view is crystal clear; the law does need strengthening and trespass needs to be made a criminal offence.

"This is the case in the Republic of Ireland and we need this change here. It will deter illegal encampments, as the individuals concerned will understand they will face criminal law sanctions, rather than civil ones, right from the start.”

During his time as Housing and Planning Minister, Mr Sharma initiated the original consultation on changes in the law.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has committed to give councils up to £1.5m extra funding to help tackle unauthorised sites.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: “The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens, but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby.

"There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers and that is deeply troubling.

"The result of our initial consultation was clear; people want to see greater protection for local communities and for the police to be given greater power to crack down on trespassers.”

Reading Borough Council spent around £95,000 on dealing with illegal traveller camps in 2017 and parts of West Berkshire have dealt with regular illegal encampments.