I notice the government is going to hold a review of the law and powers to deal with unauthorised caravan sites and developments.

And not a moment before time in my opinion.

This is certainly a vexatious issue and Housing Minister Dominic Raab has called for the review saying that unauthorised sites can cause ‘significant distress’ for both the settled and nomadic communities and is an issue increasingly raised in Parliament over recent months.

It is true the appearance of caravans on a field or car park somewhere near you will often bring concerns about anti-social behaviour including fly-tipping and noise.

And for the travellers themselves, evidence also shows that living on unauthorised sites can have a negative impact on their health and education.

Mr Raab went on to say: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people. But we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to.

“We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for travellers but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”

Apparently, the consultation – carried out jointly by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Home Office and Ministry of Justice – covers police and local authority powers, court processes, government guidance, the provision of legal sites and the impact on settled and nomadic communities.

It will emphasise the government’s commitment to the ‘fair and equal treatment of all communities’ including respecting people’s right to a nomadic way of life, while balancing this with the interests of settled communities.

A major part of the problem appears to be that trespass is usually considered a civil legal matter and not a criminal issue which means the police are either unable or reluctant to get involved when travellers move on to private land.

The police may activate their powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require gipsies and travellers to leave where they are satisfied that two or more people are trespassing on the land and the landowner has taken ‘reasonable steps’ to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following also has to apply:

Damage has been caused to the land or property

Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent

The trespassers have six or more vehicles

It gets more difficult if the travellers are on council land. In that case, the council simply can’t move them immediately.

Instead, the council must show that the gipsies and travellers are on the land without consent, make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children’s education, ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with and establish ownership of land.

And for an individual landowner, if he or she can’t persuade them to leave, and they are not willing to tolerate the encampment any longer, they have to go to a county court and start the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining an order granting the landowner possession of their own land.

Frankly, it’s all a bit of a mess and the sooner the law is sorted out the better and I suspect that most people would welcome that as well.

But this is the government we are talking about so I won’t be holding my breath.

On another matter, there was a interesting report on the Guardian’s website about a £2 million cash windfall coming to Cheshire East Council from the Government’s new homes bonus – a grant paid to councils as an incentive to build new homes.

Cheshire East has agreed to set the money aside for communities to decide how they want to use it, and areas which have seen the most housebuilding between 2011 and 2017 will get the most money.

Communities will be able to bid for amounts of at least £10,000, their projects must be feasible and represent good value, while ward councillors are set to decide the funding priorities for their area.

And example projects could include community sport and transport schemes, library provision and parks improvement.

As I said earlier, the areas that have seen the most housebuilding will get the biggest piece of the pie.

Don’t hold your breath if you live in Audlem then (yes, the area represented by Conservative leader of the council Rachel Bailey).

While most areas in Cheshire East saw an increase in housebuilding, Audlem (where Cllr Bailey lives on a 200-acre farm and has a favourite cow called Florence) saw a REDUCTION of four houses in the latest figures.

Make what you will of that.

By our columnist The Fly in the Ointment