Unauthorised Encampments

The Gypsy/Traveller way of life may mean that they travel the country staying in different locations for various periods of time in order to earn a living. This has been their way of life for many generations. 

Gypsies and Travellers have rights as have the owners of the land where unauthorised camping takes place.  Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values.

This page sets out how the Council and other official agencies will work to balance the rights of all those involved when an illegal encampment is set up.

Does the Council have a duty to move Gypsies/Travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission?

If the encampment is on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility to evict them. The Council will advise landowners of the process to do this.  The Council may, however, seek to evict Gypsies/Travellers who camp on Council-owned land without agreement.  Top

If Gypsies/Travellers camp on private land, what should the landowner do?

  1. The landowner should talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.  However, if the landowner decides to temporarily or permanently let the Gypsies/Travellers stay on their land then they could be in breach of Planning or Caravan Licensing laws if they do not already have permission and a relevant site licence. 
  2. If the landowner wants to evict the Gypsies/Travellers then they should take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing. 

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements and does not take action to evict the Gypsies/Travellers, then the Council may take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

For further advice on illegal encampments, you can contact our Health and Housing Group on 01785 619000.  Top

I have seen Gypsies/Travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other Council-owned land, what can the Council do in these cases?

Each case is assessed on its own merits and a number of factors will be considered.  If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable.  In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that waste collection facilities may be provided. Top

Can the Council remove Gypsies/Travellers from their land immediately?

No, the Council must:

  • show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on the land without consent;
  • make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education;
  • ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with;
  • follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the Courts to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site.

How long it takes to evict the Gypsies/Travellers will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. The Council will need to take account of the issues outlined above as well as how soon they can obtain a Court hearing date.  Top

Can the Court refuse to grant the Council an order to move Gypsies/Travellers on?

The Court may refuse to grant an order where there are unavoidable reasons (such as health grounds) for staying on the site or where the Court believes that the Council has failed to follow due process in recovering the land.  Top

What can the Police do?

The Police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example, where there are six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.  They will only use these powers where there is serious criminality or public disorder, illegal occupation of the land is a relevant factor and the problems cannot be addressed using normal criminal law.  The Police are bound by the Human Rights Act and therefore would not use Section 61 powers if it would stop welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

The duty of the Police is to keep the peace and prevent crime, as such they will investigate any criminal or public order offences.  Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence and so the removal of trespassers is the landowner's responsibility, not the Police.


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