POLICE could soon have the power to immediately move Gipsies and Travellers from illegal encampments after councillors agreed to pursue a transit site.

Members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s cabinet voted to submit a planning application and approve funding for a £1.1 million transit site at the former Foxfields pub in Ellesmere Port.

It comes after more than a dozen illegal encampments have been set up in Northwich in recent weeks, and if the scheme is approved, it would mean police would have the power to move Gipsies and Travellers off illegal sites as soon as possible.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have a very high level of unauthorised gyspy and traveller encampments.

“If we have a transit site that we can move unauthorised encampments to, the police can make them move that very day.

“This would mean a reduction in the number of encampments, and a reduction in the community tensions that are often caused by encampments just springing up.”

Currently, unauthorised encampments require court orders to force gypsies and travellers to move elsewhere.

Once a borough has a transit site, any Gipsies and Travellers that refuse to move from an unauthorised encampment have to leave the borough and cannot return for three months.

Halton Borough Council opened a transit site in February 2009, and a report issued to CWAC’s cabinet said this has led to an increase in neighbouring boroughs, including Cheshire West.

In 2017-18, Cheshire West had 70 unauthorised Gipsy and Traveller encampments, while the report said Halton had just nine in 2015 – down from 83 encampments 10 years earlier.

Cllr Paul Dolan, cabinet member for adult social care and councillor for Winnington and Castle in Northwich, said: “Very recently 75 caravans appeared only last week, and it was a considerable task to clean up the site.

“The police were very sensitive in moving them on, but when they moved them on they moved into smaller groups of encampments and so the issue became even more complex to deal with.”

If approved, Gipsies and Travellers would be able to stay on the transit site for between 28 days and three months, and CWAC would collect a daily rent.

The site would have 10 pitches, with each able to accommodate two touring caravans and feature two parking spaces, two electrical hook-ups, a standpipe of drinking water and drainage.

There would also be a shared bathroom and laundry facilities on the site, as well as a children’s play area.

But Cllr Diane Roberts, Labour member for Netherpool, told the cabinet that while she agreed providing a transit site is a good move for the borough, it should not be in her ward – where there is already an authorised encampment for Gipsies and Travellers.

She said: “I do believe that we should embrace equality and diversity, and make sure that everyone is looked after.

“This is much needed. But there is already one encampment in a small area. People have been tolerant – I don’t think they will be now.”

CWAC’s planning committee is expected to make a decision on the transit site’s application at a meeting in Ellesmere Port.