The amount spent on tackling unauthorised encampments in Reading has risen by 450 per cent in the last five years, propelled by a recent six-figure investment into defensive measures to keep out travellers.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) spent £32,228 on encampment-related costs in 2013/14 but spending has since gone up in every year but one.

Costs almost halved in 2015/16 but have accelerated to £78,000 and £176,000 in the following years.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information (FOI ) request.

The council spent £104,000 on defence measures in 2017/18, having only spent a total of £480 in the previous four years.

The gating and fencing work was implemented on 13 locations across Reading, while at least another £26,000 of further work has taken place since April 2018.

Councillor Sophia James, lead member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said there has been a substantial reduction in encampments in these areas.

She added: “We have to balance the rights of traveller communities with residents. We are trying to keep parkland and areas around people’s houses from being camped on.”

Encampments at Prospect Park, one of first area defended, fell from 19 in 2016/17 to three in 2017/18, according to the Labour councillor.

Clean ups have been the biggest expense over the five years, with more than £170,000 spent on clearing land following encampments.

After a high of £58,000 in 2016/17, clean-up costs dropped down to £36,000 following the defence measures introduced from 2017.

Legal and bailiff expenditure has rocketed up from just £1,288 to £36,447 from 2013-2018, which Cllr James said was due to an increase in the number of encampments.

Cllr James said the council is trying desperately to find a suitable site for the travelling community which gives them the space they need but doesn’t impact on residents.

She called on the government to back councils with funding or increased powers to move on travellers.

The government is currently considering measures to make it easier for police to remove illegal encampments, which have been welcomed by Alok Sharma MP.

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

His petition, calling for trespass to be made a criminal offence, has received more than 2,000 signatures.