ACTION is being taken against travellers who have pitched their caravans on fields in north Colchester – but they may not be moved on for days.

An unauthorised encampment of 18 caravans appeared at the playing fields in Mill Road, Mile End, on Sunday.

Work vans and three horses have also been spotted on the site.

The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit will be appearing in court this morning to seek a court order to force the travellers to move on.

Gazette: Pitched up - Caravans and work vansPitched up - Caravans and work vans (Image: Newsquest)

If a court order is made the travellers would be given a deadline to vacate the land, but Mile End councillor Martin Goss suggested this wouldn’t be until early next week.

Mr Goss confirmed bailiffs are pre-emptively booked so “a more forceful approach can be taken if needed”.

A Colchester Council spokesman said the group were asked to leave the site after welfare checks were carried out and the legal proceedings commenced after they failed to do so.

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He added: “We are aware of an unauthorised encampment of 18 caravans and associated vehicles, which set up at Mill Road playing fields on May 14, on land owned by Colchester Council.

“The police visited the site on May 15 and have advised that they will not be using their emergency police powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. They will, however, continue to monitor the situation and we will be liaising with them over this decision.

“The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit also visited the site on the same day to carry out initial welfare checks, and, as there are no immediate health or welfare concerns, the travellers have been asked to leave the site.”

It is illegal for travellers to remain on land or to fail to remove their property without reasonable excuse when asked to do so.

If convicted, the maximum penalty will be three months imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,500, or both.

Speaking previously Witham MP and then Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The position in law is now very clear – trespassers must move their vehicles when asked to do so, or face jail time and a hefty fine.

“Illegal encampments cause misery for thousands of people. They damage and pollute environments and often result in residents facing unacceptable intimidation on their own doorstep.”