Unauthorised Encampments

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

Hertfordshire County Council has a Gypsy ServicePlease call 01707 897367 (Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm) to report any suspected unauthorised encampments in the first instance. The Gypsy Service are the first point of contact for complaints about unauthorised encampments across Hertfordshire. 

You can also report unauthorised encampments to us on 01727 866100 (9am to 5pm Monday-Friday excluding Bank Holidays) or 01727 811155 (at all other times) or by email at Travellerincursion@stalbans.gov.uk

The Police Commissioner also offers guidance here.

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

No. 

The Council can take action to move Gypsies/Travellers when they are camped on District Council-owned land.

Unauthorised encampments on all other land, including Parish Council, highway / roads / verges (Hertfordshire County Council or Highways England) and privately-owned land, are the responsibility of the landowner. 

The Police produce an overview on what landowners can do if they discover an unauthorised encampment, what their legal options are and who they can turn to for advice and/or assistance. The Gypsy Service at Hertfordshire County Council can also give advice to land owners.  

Where the owner does not take action to recover the land, we will consider planning enforcement powers against the landowner. 

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 Act 1998 has been fully complied with, and follow a set procedure in terms of providing the Court with details of the ownership of land and the illegal encampment.

This will often involve serving an initial notice of direction requesting the group to leave the area, followed by an application to a Court to seek a removal order if the group has not voluntarily moved.  This is a process which can take up to five working days to complete. 

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 refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.

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

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 there is an unavoidable 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. 

What can the Police do?

The Police will investigate criminal and Public Order offences. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the Police. 

If you would like further information or advice from the Police about traveller incursions please call 101 - the Police non-emergency number. 

If you feel threatened or require immediate assistance ring 999.

The Police may use 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.

The Police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

What happens if gypsies/travellers occupy their own land?

If the Gypsies/Travellers own the land, then there is no issue of trespass and therefore powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act or Civil Procedure Rules do not apply. Instead, a breach of planning control could have occurred.

As the Local Planning Authority, it is at our discretion to take formal enforcement action. 

Date of last review: 06 February 2019