What is an unauthorised encampment?

An unauthorised encampment is where any person camps in caravans, vans, trailers or any other moveable accommodation on land that they do not own, and where they do not have permission to reside.

Does the Council or Police have a duty to move travellers when they are camped without the landowner’s permission?

No. For encampments on privately owned land the local Council will expect the landowners to decide on the appropriate action, including seeking an eviction order from the County Court if appropriate. The Council will not normally act for private landowners under these circumstances.

What about trespass?

The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land itself is not a crime – it is a civil matter. Prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner.

Where people are camped without the landowner’s permission, when can the Police move them on?

The Police may activate their powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require gypsies/travellers to leave.

The Police are able to activate these powers where they are satisfied that two or more people are trespassing on the land, and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following also has to apply:

  • damage has been caused to the land or property, or
  • threatening / abusive / insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent, or
  • the trespassers have six or more vehicles.

Where people are camped without the landowner’s permission, when can the Council move them on?

If gypsies/travellers occupy council land, the local Council can recover possession of their land by either seeking a County Court Order, or by using powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to direct the occupants to leave. If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner’s responsibility.

Can the Council remove gypsies/travellers from Council owned land immediately?

No, the local Council must:

  • Visit the site and carry out a preliminary welfare assessment.
  • Advise relevant partner agencies of the encampment. Where necessary a copy of the welfare assessment will be sent to the relevant welfare agencies (E.G. Primary Care Trust, Adult Care Services, and Housing Teams where the Gypsies/Travellers have requested re-housing) so that they can determine what services may need to be provided.
  • Establish the ownership of the land.

The local Council’s action will depend on an assessment of the information gathered and in all cases the Council’s response must be reasonable and proportionate.

When eviction is to be undertaken, how long will it take for the gypsies/travellers to be removed?

This will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. The local Council will need to take into account, the issues outlined above.

What can I do if unauthorised encampments occur on my land?

The local Council will not usually take action to evict where there is an unauthorised encampment on privately owned land. Council’s will notify the owner of the land and provide information on how to effectively manage unauthorised encampments and the powers available to landowners to recover possession of their land.

Where the owner does not take action to recover the land the Council may consider planning enforcement powers against the landowner. Where the encampment is giving rise to serious disruption or a nuisance, a Council will usually discuss possible solutions with the local Police.