Travellers could be banned from setting up camp on council land in St Albans.

The proposals were put forward at the St Albans City and District Council’s Planning, Resources, Housing and Commercial Scrutiny Committee to improve the council's response to unauthorised travellers’ camps.

One key recommendation made was an investigation into obtaining an injunction banning the camps from council land.

This could allow the council to take immediate action to move trespassers on without the need for further court hearings.

Other suggested measures were installing barriers and ditches to protect land from incursions and improving communications with the public.

The proposals were agreed upon at the meeting.

Cllr Teresa Heritage, the Committee’s Chair, said: “This was a very thoughtful and balanced discussion about the difficulties the council faces in dealing with unauthorised camps.

“We must respect the rights of travellers to enjoy their way of life and to move around the country to authorised sites that we and other councils have set aside for them.

“However, the rights of farmers and other landowners along with residents also need to be upheld and that means taking appropriate action against unauthorised camps when do they occur.”

Recently the council asked people across the district if they are receiving enough information and guidance about how traveller incursions are dealt with in the area.

A report was discussed at the meeting that outlined the council’s policies for dealing with incursions and how other local authorities operate.

Cllr Heritage continued: “The Committee recognised that there is a feeling that we are slower than we could be to deal with such incursions.

“Some councils have obtained a blanket injunction which allows them to act almost immediately and we have recommended an investigation to see if we should do the same.

“We have also made a number of recommendations about improving communications with farmers and residents and we hope that these can be acted on.

“There have been five unauthorised encampments in the District this year and it’s important that when one happens that people are aware of who they can turn to for advice and what they can do.”

The report said the council’s procedures are similar to those adopted by the majority of local authorities.

This involves council officers first carrying out a site visit and bailiffs then checking on the welfare of the travellers before serving a direction to vacate.

If this is not complied with, an application is made to the Magistrates’ Court under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

Once a Magistrates’ order has been obtained, this is served on the travellers. Bailiffs supervise the vacation of the site in the specified time frame.

But some councils – including Hertsmere – have obtained injunctions banning unauthorised camps from their land for a period of several years.

This means travellers can be moved on immediately without further court action being required. Those who refuse can be arrested and face prison or fines.

Cllr Heritage added: “I thank all those representatives of other bodies who came along to the meeting and gave valuable input into these complex and challenging issues.”

The committee asked the cabinet to investigate the potential of an injunction to protect its land as well as providing better perimeter security.

It also asked the cabinet to improve communications with the public in the event of an unauthorised camp including a review of the council’s website.