POLICE would have greater powers to arrest and seize property of travellers who set up unauthorised caravan sites in Wirral under Home Office plans.

Currently such trespassing is defined in law as a civil matter but consultation is now underway on proposed amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

If approved, the number of vehicles needed to be involved in an unauthorised camp before police can act would be reduced from six to two.

Police would have powers to direct offenders to sites in neighbouring local authorities. They can currently only direct trespassers to sites in the same area.

Police would be able to remove trespassers from camping on or beside a road.

The time period in which offenders would not allowed to return to a site they have already been banned from would increased from three months to a year.

The proposed amendments have welcomed by a Wallasey councillor Lesley Rennie, whose ward has been blighted by the problem in recent years.

Cllr Rennie said: "Wallasey, and especially the Dips and Coastal Drive, have been the scene of several ongoing legal battles in recent years, at great cost to the local taxpayer and our local environment.

"These proposals will shift the balance in favour of the police, council and residents and away from those who knowingly break the law."

As a result of the problem in Wirral and elsewhere, the Home Office is proposing to broaden the categories of criminal trespass to cover trespassers who enter onto any land without permission of the occupier with the intention to reside.

Home secretary Priti Patel said: "Unauthorised encampments can cause misery to those who live nearby, with reports of damage to property, noise, abuse and littering.

"The public want their communities protected and for the police to crack down on trespassers.

"Our proposals aim to ensure these encampments can be challenged and removed as quickly as possible."

As part of the consultation, which began today (Tuesday), the Home Office is seeking further views from local authorities, police forces, travellers, communities and general public on the measures.