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Gypsy and Traveller Sites

Contact details:

Council Offices: 023 8028 5000
Fax: 023 8028 5555
Minicom/Text: 023 8028 5416

Everyone has rights, including Travellers/Gypsies and people on whose land 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.

The aim of this information is to set out how the Council and other official agencies will work to try to balance the rights of all those involved.

  • Why do Gypsies/Travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?
  • Does the Council have a duty to move Gypsies/Travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission?
  • If Gypsies/Travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?
  • What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?
  • If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the Gypsies/Travellers, what will the Council do?
  • 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?
  • Can the Council remove Gypsies/Travellers from their land immediately?
  • How long will it take for the Gypsies/Travellers to be removed?
  • Can the Court refuse to grant the Council an order to move Gypsies/Travellers on?
  • What can the Police do?

Why do Gypsies/Travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?

Their way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods of time in different locations, in order to earn a living or visit family and friends. This has been their way of life for many generations.

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

No. If Gypsies/Traveller are camped on Council land, the Council can apply to the Court to evict them, if it believes such action to be necessary.

If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility. The Government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

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

  • talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.
  • take proceedings in the County Court 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.

What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the Gypsies/Travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of planning laws and the law dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.You may wish to seek further advice from the Council Environmental Health section and Planning Department.

If the Landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the Gypsies/Travellers, what will the Council do?

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then the Council will consider action against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

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?

The Council will consider each case on its merits. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to ensure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause any problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided on site.

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 education of any children on the site;
  • ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with;
  • only then seek to apply to the Court for possession of the land on which the unlawful encampment is sited.

How long will it take for the Gypsies/Travellers to be removed?

This 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.

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

Yes. If the Court takes the view that there is good reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site, or if the Court believes that the Council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers it may refuse to make an order.

What can the Police do?

The Police will visit all sites reported to them in certain circumstances (for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by other legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor.

The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land is not in itself a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibility of the landowner and not the Police. The Police will investigate criminal and Public Order offences.

Updated: 23 Oct 2014
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