An online petition calling for changes to a bill currently going through parliament that campaigners say could significantly curtail wild camping in this country has already reached nearly 30,000 signatures just three weeks after being created.
Petition founder Nick Rosen says the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, while being mainly focused on demonstrations, currently includes a clause which would significantly increase the police powers to deal with wild camping.
Clause 4 would introduce a new offence of “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle”, Offenders could be liable for a fine, three months in prison, or see their vehicle being confiscated.
Mr Rosen, who runs a website for living off the grid, says such an offence could severely restrict the freedoms of many holidaymakers who find themselves unable to get a space on a caravan park or just prefer to park up in a quiet lane.
He said under the new bill it does not have to be the landowner who makes a complaint. “It could be just a neighbour who takes offence,” he said.
He added that under the clause there is no definition of what a “vehicle” is, although it looks as if tents might be exempt. “The whole thing is ridiculous because the people they are really trying to target with this, the likes of Extinction Rebellion, tend to turn up in tents anyway.”
He conceded that some caravanners and motorcaravanners might not like the idea of wild camping being encouraged, but he said there are already existing laws that deal with nuisance and littering.
“In these times of lockdown, when there are reports of it costing £3,000 a week to rent a caravan in Cornwall this summer, I think we need to cut people who just want to go away for a short period of time and who like the nomadic lifestyle a little bit of slack,” he said.
The bill has already past its third reading in the House of Commons, but Mr Rosen says he has contacts in the House of Lords who could be persuaded to table amendments.
The Government has yet to respond to the petition, which it is supposed to do after any petition gains more than 10,000 signatures. But it has said in the past that it believes there is an “appetite to extend powers available to the police when dealing with unauthorised encampments”.
The petition can be viewed here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/583903.
If it gains more than 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament.
In these times of lockdown, when there are reports of it costing £3,000 a week to rent a caravan in Cornwall this summer, I think we need to cut people who just want to go away for a short period of time and who like the nomadic lifestyle a little bit of slack