Government to give cash to councils that build traveller sites

Ministers are to offer cash incentives to councils that build official sites for travellers in an attempt to persuade communities to allow travellers set up home on their doorsteps.

In a move that risks igniting a major row, the Government is to use powers to encourage home building to also offer "financial benefits" to local authorities that develop land for caravans and campers. The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, wants to stamp out unlawful developments. This week he will launch a charm offensive with the traveller community, saying those who "play by the rules" will get more rights and be treated in the same way as other mobile home residents.

In January this year there were more than 1,800 caravans on sites "not tolerated" by officials. The figures showed an 11 per cent increase on the previous year, while the number of caravans on sites with permission rose by 4 per cent in the same period.

Earlier this month, the Government announced plans for a new homes bonus which would be paid to councils that built more houses. But this week Mr Pickles will announce that the scheme will also include authorised traveller sites to ensure "all types of authorised residential developments are treated equally". Travellers on official council sites will be given the same rights and responsibilities as residents on other mobile home sites, while those who abide by their pitch agreement will have greater protection against eviction.

At the same time, the Government is expected to revoke the Whitehall Planning Circulars on travellers which some councils say have forced them to build on the countryside and compulsorily purchase land. It has been estimated that councils spend £18m a year evicting travellers from unauthorised sites.