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Unauthorised encampments

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 Service – Please 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.

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

No. The Council can take on 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? Toggle accordion

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? Toggle accordion

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? Toggle accordion

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? Toggle accordion

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? Toggle accordion

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. 

Advice for land owners Toggle accordion

Advice for private landowners – protection of sites from illegal incursions and encampments

Landowners’ responsibilities

Unauthorised access onto your land can be both a major nuisance as well as a costly experience, particularly if you later have to clear up left behind waste. Private landowners are responsible for the removal of unauthorised encampments on their land.

Measures to protect sites from illegal incursions

The site protection measures below may help make your land less inviting as an encampment site.  
Check to see if formal consent is required before implementing protection measures. Sources of advice can be found at: https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/do-i-need-planning-permission and https://www.planningportal.co.uk/.

Fencing, Mounding and Ditches

If it is common land, there are requirements for works such as fencing or mounding that you will need to consider.  Specific consent is needed from the Planning Inspectorate (on behalf of DEFRA) to erect more than 200m of obstacles, for example.

Having either a mound or a ditch makes it difficult for a vehicle and trailer/caravan to gain access without risking damage to the vehicles. It can also help stop joy-riders’ vehicles being abandoned on your land.
Mounds are generally formed using rubble/subsoil as a base, with a suitable topsoil finish for either grass seeding/planting.

Gates

A strong, robust gate will help deter access. The gate will need to be secured with a toughened padlock. Metal gates/barriers are more robust than wooden gates.

Fencing/Barriers

There are many different types of fencing available.  The most robust is steel palisade.  Euroguard fencing is also a strong barrier.  Wooden close-board fencing generally looks better but is more vulnerable to damage and vandalism.  Metal posts and rails are more robust than similar wooden styles. A secured height barrier will restrict access to taller vehicles. Using wooden/metal/concrete posts will deter informal access, but will not be sufficient to deter those more intent on gaining access.

FAQs

People are coming onto my property, what can I do to stop them?
Unfortunately, there is little you can do to stop people coming onto your land unless you can obstruct the entry point.

The people are aggressive and threatening, what can I do?
You can contact the Police who can act to stop breach of the peace.

Who is responsible for getting the people removed from my land?
As the landowner, you are responsible.

What legislation can I use to remove people from my property?
It is advisable to speak to your solicitor, but Common Law/Part 55 Civil Procedures Rules can be used.  The Council can invoke its powers under S77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as an alternative method to seek the removal of people from private land.  The council can use these powers if for example, the police do not use their powers under S61 to move on an unauthorised encampment.

Where can I get some advice on how to deal with people on my land without permission?
Contact the Hertfordshire County Council Gypsy & Traveller Unit - 01707 897367 (business hours only). 

How can the Council help?
The Council is potentially able to assist private landowners to remove illegal encampments from their land if they make a formal request to the Council to do so.  Private landowners have to agree in writing to pay all the costs involved in doing this.   These costs include (but are not limited to) staff and bailiff costs which can range from £1,000 to £3,500 depending on the size of the encampment. Each case is assessed on an individual basis.  

How can the Police help?
The Police will assist at any time if there is a breach of the peace. They will liaise with the Council to agree any appropriate action necessary, if it is felt early eviction is necessary. If you would like further information or advice from the Police about such incursions please call the Police non-emergency number 101. If you feel threatened or require immediate assistance ring 999.

Can I employ a company to assist in removing people from my land?
Please speak to your solicitor about this. You may be able to employ bailiffs to assist you with removing people from your land.

Whose responsibility is it to get left behind mess removed?
As the landowner you are responsible for the removal of any waste.

Who can remove the waste?
Any licensed waste contractor can remove the waste, unless it is human waste, in which case a specialist contractor will need to be employed.  

To check to see if a waste contractor has a valid license, you can check the Environment Agency’s website: https://environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/index.  The Government also offers guidance on waste removal. See: https://www.gov.uk/topic/environmental-management/waste