A MOTION to criminalise the act of unauthorised encampment across the district split Winchester city councillors.

At a cabinet meeting, Cllr Hugh Lumby put forward the proposal to stop travellers residing in prohibited spaces.

This sparked a debate, with some members wanting to protect their ward residents, and others looking at the implications on the community.

Cllr Kelsie Learney said: "These proposals are aimed at the travelling community. But it goes deeper – it will essentially criminalise the actions of the homeless, those who are rough sleeping or living in their cars.

"This will shut them away and make it even more difficult to help them. This method is not even supported by the police and is simply passing the buck to someone else. There has to be a better way."

Cllr Kathleen Becker added: "I have some very serious concerns about this. The motion has been under scrutiny, there has been no consultation, the pros and cons have not been weighed up and the human rights of those impacted have not been considered.

"I urge you to see this group as a part of our community – they are not just a side group, separate from everyone else. They are part of the Winchester community.

"This is a serious and complex issue."

The motion also looked to criminalise the act of entering upon land as a trespasser with the purpose of residing there in a vehicle.

Police currently need a court order to ask people in unauthorised camps to leave.

Cllr Lumby said: "I'm not saying our superb officers don't do a wonderful job already. But it takes up a lot of time – around five days – and a lot of money.

"Residents are often left feeling uneasy, living in ear and feeling threatened when these camps are set up. Some even ask for payment from local residents in order to leave.

"However, we do need to ensure there are sufficient authorised sites in the area to ensure the community has somewhere to go after being removed."

The motion was voted down by a majority of 23 councillors.

This means the council will not write a letter to central Government asking for the act of unauthorised encampment to be criminalised.