ILLEGAL traveller encampments in Basingstoke and Deane are becoming more frequent, figures show.

In 2012, there were 72 illegal traveller/gypsy sites in the borough, which is an increase from 55 in 2011 and 53 in 2010.

The figures, released to The Gazette by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, also showed where the illegal encampments took place across the borough in 2012.

The electoral ward of Norden, which includes Houndmills, Oakridge and South View, had the most encampments with 21. This was nearly double the second highest amount, which was Chineham with 12.

Councillor George Hood, who represents Norden on the borough council, said popular traveller sites were in the playing fields in Upper Sherborne Road, Oakridge and in Hamilton Close, Houndmills.

He said: “The figures do surprise me but it can be one of those things that can build up quite quickly.

“We do get calls from residents who are concerned that areas are being blocked off by the camps, and that the site in Upper Sherborne Road is quite close to a school.”

Some wards, such as Popley East and West, Rooksdown and Tadley Central, had just one encampment in 2012, while others, such as Overton, Laverstoke and Steventon, and Whitchurch, had none at all.

Of the encampments in 2012, 32 occurred on land owned by Hampshire County Council, while 28 took place on private land. Just eight occurred on borough council-owned land, and four were on other sites.

If an illegal encampment is on borough council land, the local authority has the power to evict the travellers, but has to comply with human rights procedures, such as welfare checks, before doing so.

Councillor Robert Donnell, Cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: “We have seen a small increase in the number of local resident caravans in the borough, but in general the increase in the number of encampments over the past three years is as a result of moving the travellers on quicker and, on occasions, of one family occupying more than one site at a time.

“We recognise the concerns that unauthorised encampments can give rise to and we work closely with the police and other agencies to ensure travellers who are illegally camped are moved on as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Donnell added that officers had recently conducted an area assessment into how many traveller pitches might need to be provided in the borough.