MORE traveller caravans pitching up in Herefordshire than a decade ago, but figures show a fall in the number on unauthorised sites.

Councils carry out a count of caravans on traveller sites twice a year to provide a snapshot of the numbers in permitted and unpermitted spots.

It includes those lived in by Gypsies and Travellers, as well as non-traditional groups who live in moveable homes.

Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government data shows that 23 traveller caravans were on sites without planning permission in Herefordshire in July, down from 28 counted in July 2009.

But the total number of caravans in the area rose over the period, from 153 to 183. This means 13% were in unauthorised locations this year.

All the dwellings on unpermitted land were tolerated, meaning the council had decided not to try to remove the encampment.

The trend in Herefordshire was the same across England, where 3,082 caravans were on unauthorised sites – 17% fewer than a decade previously.

This was despite the total number of dwellings increasing by a third, to around 23,000, meaning the vast majority had planning permission.

The Traveller Movement, a charity that fights discrimination against the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, says the national figures show that "only a tiny minority of Travellers reside on unauthorised land".

"While local authorities pump millions annually into removing unauthorised encampments, the other issues facing communities are ignored," said Yvonne MacNamara, the group's chief executive.

"This includes high rates of anxiety and suicide, poor health outcomes, school exclusions and cuts to Traveller education services."