UP to £300,000 will likely be spent on improving security in West Berkshire against unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller camps. 

The plan follows several high profile camps last summer in Theale, Newbury and Thatcham. 

Last September, West Berkshire Council agreed to urgently assess how susceptible each of the council-managed green areas in towns and villages are to unauthorised camps, and the impact on nearby residents. 

Paul Hendry, countryside manager, detailed the options in a recent report, which will be discussed by the executive on September 5. 

The executive will consider three different options: continuing to act reactively, assessing every green area managed by the council, or compromising and only securing the most vulnerable and popular places. 

Assessing every green area as was agreed last September, would cost a minimum of £500,000, according to Mr Hendry. And so he recommended instead finding a compromise—and spending between £100,000 and £300,000. 

He said: “Considering limited funding, this process needs to prioritise actions to protect the most vulnerable land in the most cost effective manner.” 

So far this year, no issues of unauthorised camps on council-managed land have been reported. 

Last year in Theale and Thatcham, the council spent £35,000 on concrete blocks, ditches, bollards, fencing and gates. More work is planned, subject to funding, on Stroud Green in Newbury.

Mr Hendry said: “Encampments in the district vary in size from small family groups of two to three caravans, to large scale encampments of up to 20 caravans. It is these larger groups which are most problematic as they often enter land which also has a wider community use. 

“There are often significant antisocial and sometimes criminal behaviour associated with these groups. They are however in the minority in terms of overall traveller movements in this area.”

To remove unauthorised camps, councils must complain to a magistrates court which can often take up to 10 days. The police have more powers and can sometimes evict camps within a few hours.