HOME Secretary Priti Patel waded into the ongoing issue of unauthorised traveller encampments across the borough during a campaign visit to Dudley.

Ms Patel visited Woodside Park, which is surrounded by concrete bollards to stop incursions, following her announcement of plans to criminalise unauthorised camps.

Green spaces around the borough, including at Cot Lane in Kingswinford and Withymoor have been protected by barriers, costing Dudley Council tens of thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile, residents are still waiting for the location of a transit site to be revealed, after plans for a site in Coseley were canned earlier this year.

Speaking to the News, the Home Secretary said her measures meant that "beautiful parks" such as the one she visited would be protected.

She said: " A consultation is underway on looking at how we can make unauthorised encampments illegal, particularly where criminality takes place.

"We [national government] can work with local authorities and we can work with the police to empower them and give them more powers to take action, which means removing them from beautiful parks like this.

"Also from the criminal justice side and police side, by literally seizing their assets, their vehicles and charging them for their illegal behaviour on sites."

She was joined on the campaign trail by Dudley South Conservative candidate Mike Wood, leader of Dudley Council and Kingswinford councillor Patrick Harley and Dudley North Tory hopeful Marco Longhi.

Speaking to the News during the visit, Councillor Harley said a decision on the location of a transit site in the borough was "very close".

He said: "You only have to look around Woodside Park to see the effects of these concrete bollards. They are an eyesore and the quicker they are gone the better. We believe we will have it in place before May when traditionally the traveller season starts."

He revealed that two or three options for sites are being considered and an announcement will be made following the general election.

Mike Wood, who is fighting to retain his seat in Dudley South, said he was "delighted" with the Home Secretary's proposals.

Mr Wood, who is to private secretary to Ms Patel, said: "I’ve worked closed with Priti in Parliament and its great to bring her to Dudley South to talk about the problems illegal traveller camps have had right across Dudley.

"It’s costing council tax payers tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees and clean up costs with the nuisance, the mess and the damage that is too often left behind, stopping local people from using their parks.

"I’m delighted the Home Secretary has launched this consultation."

The Home Secretary's plans would give police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised caravan sites on private and public land.

Currently such trespassing is defined in law as a civil matter meaning landowners face lengthy court battles and costs.