Travellers frequently asked questions
The Council recognises and accepts the rights of travellers/gypsies and also those people on whose land unauthorised camping takes place. Gypsies and travellers are protected from discrimination by the Equalities Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values.
These FAQ explain how the Council and other official agencies will work to try to balance the rights of all those involved.
Does the Council or Police have a duty to move Travellers when they are camped without permission?
No. The powers given to local authorities and the Police are discretionary and can only be used when certain conditions exist. Failure to comply with both civil and criminal procedures would render the Council and Police liable to successful challenge in the Courts.
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, not the Council nor the Police.
What about criminal activity associated with some authorised encampments?
Most gypsies and travellers are law-abiding citizens. The Police will deal with crime committed by gypsies/travellers when there is a complaint and evidence to support it, just as they would when committed by anyone else.
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 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.
Any enforcement of section 61 requires considerable resourcing and consideration has to be given to having sufficient police officers available etc., which may in itself take some time to arrange.
Can the Council remove unauthorised encampments 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
- establish ownership of land
How long will it take for the unauthorised encampment 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.
What can I do if unauthorised encampments occur on my land?
If you are not willing to tolerate the encampment any longer, you or your solicitor can go to a Court and obtain an Order granting you possession of your land.
What happens if Gypsies/Travellers occupy their own ground without planning permission?
Gypsies and travellers are advised to undertake pre-application discussion with Local Planning Authorities to ascertain whether any proposals they may have for permanent sites are acceptable in land-use planning terms.
Where Gypsies purchase land and occupy it without planning permission, whilst this is not in itself an offence, the local planning authority has to consider the land use implications and the undesirable precedent of such development. This can often involve consideration of enforcement action.
More often than not, occupation of the land is accompanied by the submission of a retrospective planning application. If the outcome is the refusal of planning permission and a resolution to take enforcement action, there begins a lengthy process of appeals and court proceedings.
What if I am content to allow unauthorised camping on my land?
If they are not causing a problem, the Government has asked that consideration be given to tolerating encampments for short periods of time.
Do we have any authorised sites in the Borough?
Yes. Warwickshire County Council manages a site for families at the Griff Hollows.
Complain about unauthorised encampments?
The Council’s Private Sector Housing is the first point of contact for complaints about unauthorised encampments on Council land. They will investigate the complaint and instigate legal action, where appropriate.
What powers do the Council and the Police have to deal with Travellers?
The powers the Council has are different to the powers the Police have.
What about a 'blanket traveller ban' across the Borough?
- The problem in Harlow was very widespread and had a significant impact on the local community in terms of loss of amenity and community un-ease. The travellers were clear that they did not want to move out of Harlow.
- There was a clear breach of planning control over some 17 months by the same group of people, and the persistent efforts by the authority to deal with the problem by other means had failed.
- The approach had not only caused considerable expense to the authority but more significantly the time spent on taking action did not result in any visible changes to the behaviour of those defendants;
- There were no children with particular needs or any other circumstances on behalf of the defendants that could outweigh the necessity for the order which is sought.
Why NBBC have not yet been able to bring similar proceedings
- Whilst we have had a number of encampments, they have been different groups of people and the use of the powers available to us under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 have proved to be an effective remedy;
- There has been no indication from the unauthorised encampments so far that there is any intention on their part to remain in the borough on a long term basis in breach of planning control, once the order has been served the groups have moved on without the use of the bailiffs. In some instances they have left before we have even obtained the Court Order.
Last updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019