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Unauthorised encampments

The Government defines unauthorised encampments as 'encampments of caravans and/or other vehicles on land without the landowner or occupier's consent and constituting trespass'.

Unauthorised encampments fall into two main categories: 

  • those on land owned by local authorities (highways, schools, public parks and car parks)
  • those on privately owned land.

An unauthorised development refers to a caravan/trailer or group of caravans/trailers on land owned (possibly developed) by Gypsies and Travellers without planning permission.

The quickest and easiest way is to report this online.

Report an unauthorised encampment

 

Out of hours

If you need to report this out of hours or in an emergency then you can following the process below.

OOH-flow-chart

Out of hours process (PDF, 300KB)

Council policy on unauthorised encampments

Government guidance highlights the need for welfare assessments to be carried out by council officers on all unauthorised encampments. 

Where a need for a particular service is identified as part of the assessment, the relevant department or external agency should be contacted in order to meet these needs as appropriate e.g. health, education, housing (including homelessness services), adult social care and children’s services.

Occasionally it may be necessary to allow the encampment to remain until the urgent welfare issues are addressed, this will be dependent on the location and associated behaviour on the encampment.

To avoid legal challenge and minimise the risks to the council the encampment processes must be open and transparent with a clear audit trail from encampment to the final decision.

The paperwork would include the following.

  • Welfare assessment form: covering the information required by the council to fulfil its duty
  • Good Neighbour Code: this covers the behaviour required of the Travellers and what the council’s role is.  The Travellers sign this to say they have received this information - it also includes a list of useful telephone numbers for example health, voluntary agencies and Traveller education.
  • Decision Matrix: this summarises the details of the encampment say location, issues associated with it, for example when was it last encamped upon and were there any problems - all interested parties have input to this before a decision can be made by a senior manager
  • Regular updates: these are sent out, via email, to all interested parties and would include Ward Members, CEX, Leader, various departments, the police, local residents and businesses

Government guidance

What legislation relates to the management of unauthorised encampments

The main legislation affecting Gypsies and Travellers and unauthorised encampments are:

  • Human Rights and Equality Acts
  • Sections 61, 62, 62A-E, 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

That legislation is bound by various interpretations from the courts (case law) and guidance notes from Government, which do not allow racial discrimination or tolerate anti-social or criminal behaviour.

Equality legislation recognises Gypsies and Travellers as specific racial groups, i.e. Romany Gypsies, Irish and Scottish Travellers, and those other Gypsies and Travellers who are of ethnic or national origin and come within the definition of a racial group within the legislation. The legislation places a duty on public authorities, to promote race equality. 

How are unauthorised encampments managed on Local Authority land

  • All unauthorised encampments are dealt with by the Cheshire and Warrington Traveller Team (CWTT).  This is a multi-disciplinary team and has two police officers seconded to it.
  • If an unauthorised encampment arrives, the council are informed and the site is visited. Various checks are made including welfare, cleanliness, disruption to local businesses and obstruction of highways.
  • A decision to allow the encampment to stay for a short time in line with government guidelines and the Cheshire Partnership protocol are be made.
  • If a decision to evict is made we would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable deadline for the families to move on without any formal action.
  • The council will then serve a direction to leave under section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
  • If the individuals continue to remain on the land past the date given, the council will apply to the magistrate’s court for a possession order, section 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
  • If the group fail to move they are committing a criminal offence.
  • All procedures and powers have to be proportionate and are subject to the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act and can be challenged in Court.

After the unauthorised encampment has been moved the council will make every effort to clean the site as soon as possible.  Also an assessment will be undertaken to see if the land can be better protected from future trespasses.

Responsibility for managing unauthorised encampments

If the unauthorised encampment is on private land it is primarily the landowner’s responsibility to deal with the issue. The Cheshire and Warrington Traveller Team will provide advice and help if asked to do so by the landowner.

The police will tackle all reports of crime (but not trespass) wherever they are reported.  

Where the unauthorised encampment is on Local Authority land, it is the Cheshire and Warrington Traveller Team, who are responsible, on behalf of the Council.

Does the Council or police have a duty to move unauthorised encampments when they are on council land

Both the Council and the police have powers to remove unauthorised encampments but not a duty to use them. 

If an unauthorised encampment is on Council land, the Council may only evict them subject to complying with Human Rights legislation and other procedures.

Failure to comply would render the Council and the Police liable to a challenge in the courts proving costly and delaying the eviction of the encampment.

Number of unauthorised encampments

In Cheshire West and Chester Borough, the number of encampments has grown from 17 in 2010 to 76 in 2017. There were a total of 253 across the whole of Cheshire last year.

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