Nick Rosen | |
Save our summer sleepovers

A new law aimed at protesters will allow police to seize thousands of vans parked anywhere in the UK, other than designated camping sites.
The new Police Bill is aimed at reducing the right to protest in the UK – but hidden away in Clause 4 of the Bill, is a chilling assault on all who live in vans, campervans and other recreational vehicles. Even those who want to stay in a van for a few weeks over the summer will be adversely affected.

Please sign our parliamentary petition, while the Bill is currently being debated in the House of Commons, so MPs can hear direct from voters what they must do to amend the proposed law.

Under the guise of attacking protest camps, the anti-vanlife law threatens anyone who wants to park up for few days or a few weeks on someone else’s land – whether that be a council-owned lay-by, or behind a hedge in an unused field.

Parliamentary Researchers have published a briefing document on “Public Order and Unauthorised Encampments” which makes it clear that the aim of the legislation is to “deter trespassers from setting up an unauthorised encampment,” even if it is for a few people for a few weeks.

At a time when the tourist industry is still hampered by Covid, with camp sites full to overflowing, and a wave of evictions is likely to hit those who have been unable to earn their rent for the past year, this new law is guaranteed to increase homelessness in the UK and reduce the ability of thousands of individuals to live off grid, while still earning wages through remote working or driving to work.

Legislation details

The 2021 Police Bill is currently going through its Committee stage in the commons. It will strengthen police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments that “significantly interfere with a person’s or community’s ability to make use of land.”  Imagine three camper vans parked on a street. Do they significantly interfere with ability to make use of that street?  That will leave everything to the judgement of local people who want to complain, and local police who have to enforce the law.

The proposed powers will come into effect when:

A person aged 18 or over resides or intends to reside on land without consent of the occupier of the land;
They have, or intend to have, at least one vehicle with them on the land;
They have caused or are likely to cause significant damage, disruption or distress;
Persons fail to leave the land and remove their property following a request to do so;
Persons enter or return to the land with an intention of residing there without the consent of the occupier of the land, and with an intention to have at least one vehicle with them, within 12 months of a request to leave.

This new offence will be punishable by a prison sentence of up to 3 months, or a fine of up to £2500, or both. But the most serious issue us that police can seize any vehicles which are seen to have breached the new law – ie seize the homes (albeit temporary) and livelihoods of individuals.

Action

Take action by signing our petition.

And email your local representative (MPs or local Councillors). You can find them and write to them here.

Enter your post code on the web page, and write to your MP, and your local councillors, asking them to oppose this bill. MPs can vote against it or amend it before it is passed as it is currently going through Parliament.  Local councils will need to decide what stance they want to take towards nomadic residents.
Local council budgets will be impacted if a van is seized and a family made legally homeless. They may then be responsible for the rehousing, Councils can provide facilities for those with nomadic lifestyles, like toilets and shower blocks.

The new legislation says that such people will be asked to move if “They have caused or are likely to cause significant damage, disruption or distress.” But causing unnecessary distress to local residents is hard to define and the Bill says elsewhere that police action needs to be proportionate. This leaves too much to the discretion of individual officers and individual complainants, however sincere they may be in their beliefs.

My vote in your forthcoming election will be based entirely on your answer to this question. I look forward to your reply in the near future.
Yours

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