THERE have been more traveller camps in Basingstoke and Deane in the first six months of this year than the whole of last year.

So far there have been 32 unauthorised caravan encampments compared with a total of 22 last year, according to figures supplied to The Gazette by the borough council.

The figures were revealed as councillors voiced opposition to plans for up to 28 official permanent sites in Basingstoke and Deane.

The South East England Planning Board (SEEPB) – a regional quango – is proposing 11 new permanent pitches for “gypsies” and 17 for “travelling showpeople” in the borough by 2016.

But a majority of councillors on the planning and infrastructure overview and scrutiny committee voted against the proposals, saying too many are proposed and the need is based on unsound evidence.

Councillor Clive Sanders, Cabinet member for community safety and development, said: “We have noticed an increase in illegal encampments in the borough, and we are following set legal requirements to move these on from our land as swiftly as we can.”

Cllr Sanders said the borough council had been busy building defences to keep the travellers at bay, including soil bunds, fencing, repaired height barriers and heavy-duty chains.

A consultation on the proposals will end next month. An independent planning inspector will then examine them in February.

Committee chairman Cllr Stephen Reid said the existence of previous official sites in the borough did not curb incursions.

He said: “The reality was that we still got illegal trespassing.”

If travellers treated their environment with more respect, they would be more welcome, he said.

However, Popley East Councillor Andy McCormick told the committee that a transit pitch in Basingstoke, with on-site facilities, could work.

He said: “The feedback from the police is that it would be easier for them to use their powers if there is a transit site which trespassers can be moved on to.

“I would urge that Basingstoke and Deane work closely with the police and Hampshire County Council in identifying a suitable transit site.”