Northamptonshire Traveller Unit (NTU)
Report unauthorised encampments
Unauthorised encampments are encampments of caravans and other vehicles on land without the landowner or occupier's consent and constituting trespass.
Unauthorised encampments fall into 2 main categories:
- those on land owned by local authorities (highways, schools, public parks and car parks, etc.)
- those on privately owned land
Unauthorised camping is not a criminal offence. Trespass is a civil offence, giving landowners and local authorities the right to repossess their property under the law.
Where the unauthorised encampment is on local authority land, the Northamptonshire Traveller Unit will be responsible.
On private land, the landowner is primarily responsible (although the NTU will offer advice).
In all cases, the police are responsible for crime-related issues.
Immediate removal from land
First we must:
- establish that the Gypsies and Travellers are on council land, and if so without consent
- make enquiries regarding general health, welfare and children's education
- follow a set procedure to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the Gypsies or Travellers to leave the site
Duty to move on
If an unauthorised encampment is on council land, we have the power, but not a duty, to move them on and we can only evict them subject to complying with Human Rights legislation and other procedures.
Failure to comply would render the council and police officers liable to challenge in the courts, proving potentially costly and quite probably resulting in lengthy stays for the encampers.
The site will be visited as a matter of urgency. Checks are made on the tidiness of the site, the level of disruption to local residents or businesses and an assessment of any obstruction of highways or public rights of way, as well as any activity the police or others may have reported to them.
As a legal requirement, any humanitarian or welfare considerations are taken into account. If the occupants are behaving in an acceptable manner and the site is being kept tidy and if the code of conduct is complied with, unauthorised encampments may be tolerated for a short time in line with government advice.
If there is evidence of anti-social behaviour, there is a presumption towards eviction.
If the decision is taken to evict we would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable deadline for unauthorised encampers to move by. This method is normally quicker and less costly than taking formal legal action.
If that fails, there are powers that the police and local authorities can use. These are subject to Human Rights Act and Race Relations Act considerations and can be challenged in court.
Any attempt to move an unauthorised encampment without following the relevant procedures may seem quicker, but it could lead to lengthy court actions, considerable cost and public criticism of the actions taken.
There is a protocol for the management of unauthorised encampments on public land in the county.
The Northamptonshire Traveller Unit, Northamptonshire Police and other public bodies work closely together, to ensure that all decisions and actions are consistent and within the law.
We believe everyone should be judged by how they behave, not by a stereotype or single view that others may have of them.
The main legislation affecting Gypsies and Travellers and unauthorised encampments are the Human Rights and Race Relations Acts and Sections 60C to 60E, 61, 62, 62A to 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 the government, which do not allow racial discrimination or tolerate anti-social or criminal behaviour.
Trespass on land is a civil matter and prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner. You or your representative should first ask the trespassers to leave.
Then you may:
- seek advice direct from the Northamptonshire Traveller Unit as to whether any physical steps may be taken to prevent access to your land
- consider if you or your solicitor can go to a county court and obtain an order granting you possession of your land
- seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau
- employ private bailiffs to evict the trespassers
As a Gypsy or Traveller you need to gain planning consent for such a site just like anyone else. If you do not then the site is classed as an unauthorised development and our Planning team will deal with it under the powers available to us.
For any issues or concerns in relation to unauthorised developments, contact our Planning team.
In order to investigate criminal activity, written evidence from witnesses must be provided to police and an agreement to support any subsequent prosecution. The government's policy does not allow for the toleration of anti-social or criminal behaviour. Such behaviour actually speeds up the processes of the police and the council in using their powers.
If you witness unlawful and anti-social behaviour report it to the police and the Northamptonshire Traveller Unit.
Nuisance may also be reported to our Environmental Health team.
Make a note of the name of the person you are talking to, any reference number you are given and the date and time of the call.
Unauthorised encampments on the side of the road or on council land will be visited by various agencies and every effort made to try and keep the site tidy.
Local authorities, the police and the Environment Agency are seeking ways of using existing legislation to deal with these anti-social and often expensive problems.
Whilst unauthorised encampers are obliged to keep any site tidy, private landowners are responsible for the removal of waste from their own land. Certain waste requires special treatment.
If in doubt, contact the Environment Agency Hotline on 0800 807060.
Nuisances can be reported to our Environmental Health team or the police.
If the behaviour is directly linked to an unauthorised encampment, then the NTU must also be informed.
Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission or is a farmer and the encampers are helping with fruit picking, etc, the landowner could be in breach of planning acts and the acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.
In the first instance contact the Northamptonshire Traveller Unit.
Last updated 20 December 2023