A CAMPAIGNING councillor has started a petition urging the Government to take a stronger stance against illegal traveller camps in light of this week’s problems in Billericay.

Conservative Andrew Schrader, who represents Billericay East, has set up the appeal on Change.org - and already has more than 3,700 signatures.

He is petitioning to Sajid Javid MP, secretary of state for housing, communities and local Government, to adopt the Irish Option, which means to make deliberate trespassing a criminal offence and allow urgent action on illegal encampments.

He said: “The encampments in Hannakins Farm have been there for more than a week. It’s catastrophic for community groups, people with kids and football club members who use the grounds. It costs council a lot of resources to clean up the mess. We can’t keep mucking about.

“It is corrosive to society when some people are seen to disrespect the law and don’t seem to be subject to the law in the same way the rest of us are.

“This petition comes after the motion I put forward in December for the council to adopt more robust laws against illegal trespasses. The policy and resources committee will discuss this next month and I hope they will approve it.”

Seven caravans pitched up at Hannakins Farm last week. On Wednesday, another encampment returned to the site, but it is unknown if they are the same group. In the same week 12 caravans were spotted at the Basildon Sporting Village and another group arrived at a car park in Crays Hill, Billericay.

Councillor Gavin Callaghan, chairman of the policy and resources committee, said: “We have undertaken a clean-up of land at Hannakins Farm Community Centre, removing all litter and waste. Basildon Council has agreed to carry out resurfacing works and repairs at no cost to the trustees and will begin restoring the pitches to as soon as weather conditions allow.

“Basildon Council has been working with Essex Countywide Traveller Unit and Essex Police to take appropriate action in relation to an unauthorised encampment at Crays Hill Recreation Ground.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “The most recent section 61 notice was served on Wednesday and officers will enforce this notice today, if the land has not been vacated. To date people that have witnessed the damage being caused have declined to support our investigation. Officers are continuing to investigate reports of criminal damage at Hannakins Farm and we are asking anyone who witnessed any damage to contact us.”