There were hundreds of Traveller caravans pitched in Mendip at the start of this year, new figures show.

It comes as the Friends, Families and Travellers charity celebrates Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month and calls on the Government to tackle the accommodation crisis facing the community.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were 306 Traveller caravans recorded in Mendip in January – it was up from 305 the year before.

Of them, 118 did not have planning permission.

A spokesperson at Friends, Families and Travellers, which works on behalf of Gyspy, Roma and Traveller communities across the UK, said: "The chronic shortage of safe stopping places means that over 3,000 Gypsy and Traveller families are left with little to no options about where to stop and rest, and live in fear of retribution."

Nationally, the total number of Traveller caravans was 25,333 in January. About 87% of which was on authorised land.

There were 3,187 caravans on unapproved sites – a 10% increase on the year before. These were primarily on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller-owned land.

The charity added that the Government’s new Traveller Site Fund grants is welcomed, but added only one of the 16 grants awarded went towards the development of a new transit site.

"This falls far short of tackling the current accommodation crisis, and more must be done to provide travelling with much needed security," they said.

The Government recently announced an allocation of £10 million in funding towards improving Traveller sites in nine councils across England – including Kent, Lancaster, Cornwall, Swindon, and Preston.

Minister for Levelling Up, Dehenna Davison, said: "We are supporting councils to improve Travellers’ life chances and build cohesion between the settled and Traveller communities.

"This funding is just one of the many ways we are improving opportunities for communities across the country, as part of the Levelling Up agenda."

The department said investing in sites can reduce the number of unauthorised encampments in England and subsequently reduce enforcement costs for councils in redirecting Travellers from unauthorised sites.