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Unauthorised encampments

 

The Council is responsible for dealing with unauthorised gypsy camps on land owned by the Council.

The travelling community can experience some difficulties finding an authorised place to stop, and may set up an encampment on someone's land without consent, including highway verges and lay-bys. This is a breach of civil law and, in certain circumstances, may be a breach of criminal law. This council's approach is based on the need to uphold the law and prevent unlawful occupation of land.

Such encampments can also gives rise to complaints from local residents and businesses about various issues including damage to recreational land, blockage of footpaths and cycleways, accumulation of refuse, fly tipping, anti social behaviour, noise, roaming dogs and criminal activity.

Unauthorised Encampments
Unauthorised encampment

FAQs about unauthorised encampments

Residents sometimes ask why the Council and the Police do not evict Gypsy and other Travellers as soon as they arrive on a public open space or on other land.

Here are some frequently asked questions that we hope will explain why.

Q. What rights do people have?
Everyone has rights, including the travellers, the local community and the people who own the land where the unauthorised encampment is located.

Gypsies and Travellers, as with all other ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values, are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1998,

The decision to adopt a travelling lifestyle where housing need is met through living within a vehicle either on a long or short-term basis is made by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons. It is therefore important that Gypsies and Travellers are not denied the right to mainstream services that the Council provides.

Q. Can the Council remove the encampment from their land immediately?
No. The Council must

  • Show that the gypsies/travellers are on the land without consent.
  • Have regard to the general health and welfare of the group and the children’s education.
  • Ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with.

To do this the Council follows a set procedure that is based on Government guidance. This procedure includes proving ownership of the land, carrying out assessments for the health, welfare and education criteria, and assessing the impact of the encampment on its location and local neighbourhood.

Once these have been carried out the Council may use this information for the service of notices and summonses to apply for a court order to enable the Council to evict the encampment from the site.

If the travellers are found to be camped illegally on Council land then the Council may make an application to the Magistrates Court for an Eviction Order or to County Court for a Possession Order.

Q. How long will it take for the travellers to be removed?
This will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. The Council needs to take into account the issues referred to above, as well as how long it takes to obtain a court hearing.

In some instances, following government guidance, the Council may tolerate an encampment up to two weeks if high standards are maintained on site and the legitimate use of the site by others is not affected.

Q. Can the court refuse to grant the Council an order to move the travellers on?
Yes! The Court can refuse to grant an order if it believes that:

  • the Council has failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the for the health, welfare and education of the campers, or
  • if there is an unavoidable reason for the travellers to remain on site

The Council must show that it has taken all reasonable steps to find out this information before going to court.

Q. What can the Police do?
The Police under certain circumstances can use powers under Sections 61 and 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It is for the police to decide if these powers are to be used. Generally speaking these powers are only invoked where there are situations of criminality or public disorder.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and to prevent and detect crime. Trespass on land is not itself a criminal offence. The Police will investigate any reports of crime and pubic disorder.

Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibility of the Landowner and not the Police.

Q. What can the landowner do if the if the encampment is on private land?
It is the landowner’s responsibility to take the necessary action to evict the encampment.

The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the travellers or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedures Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction as trespassers.

Q. What can the Council do If the landowner fails to take action?
The landowner may be in breach of Planning legislation and the Caravan Sites Act 1960 unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site.

If there is no planning permission the Council may take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegally parked caravans.

Q. What can the Council do if an eviction order for public land is not complied with?
If the Eviction Order is not complied with then the Council can remove the caravans and other vehicles from the borough.

To report an unauthorised encampment, or for further advice, please contact the Private Sector Housing Renewal Team today on (0191) 433 3000, or contact us online now by completing the form below.

Contact Us

Private Sector Housing
Development and Enterprise
Civic Centre
Gateshead
NE8 1HH

Phone: 0191 433 3000
Email: privatesectorhousingcivic@gateshead.gov.uk