MPs call for legal campsites for gypsies

Nov. 8, 2004 at 7:13 AM

LONDON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Local authorities should be required to provide legal campsites for gypsies and other nomadic communities, a British parliamentary committee recommended Monday.

A report released by the multiparty group highlighted the need for such sites if police are to tackle the growing problem of illegal encampments, which anger local communities and cause tension, often resulting in criminal or antisocial behavior.

Police have substantial powers to remove illegal campers, but cannot apply them unless alternatives are available. Legal campsites were required until 1994 when the rule was abolished under a Conservative government.

The recommendations met with mixed reaction from local MPs and city councils, many of which cautiously welcomed the proposal but cited funding and opposition from local residents as possible obstacles, the BBC reported.

There are an estimated 90,000 to 120,000 gypsies and nomads in Britain, while only 5,000 legal campsites are provided, leaving 20 percent without legal sites to park their caravans.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, whose work the committee scrutinizes, said it would take time to respond fully to the report, but indicated that forcing city councils to act might not be an appropriate solution.

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