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Gypsies, travellers and the law

From time to time gypsies/travellers set up camp in the Borough without permission from the landowner.  

The aim of this information is to set out how the Council and other official agencies will work to try to balance the rights of all those involved.

Why do gypsies/travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?

Their way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods of time in different locations, in order to earn a living. This has been their way of life for many generations.

Does the Council have a duty to move gypsies/travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission?

No. If gypsies/travellers are camped on Council land, the Council can evict them.

If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility. The Government has advised that when gypsies/travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

If gypsies/travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?

(i) Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.

(ii) Take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.

What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the gypsies/travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites. You may wish to seek further advice from Fareham Borough Council Environmental Health section, who deal with illegal encampments.

If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the gypsies/travellers, what will the Council do?

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or license requirements, then the Council will take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

I have seen gypsies/travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other Council-owned land, what can the Council do in these cases?

If the gypsies/travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. The Council will consider each case on its merits. 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.

Can the Council remove gypsies/travellers from their land immediately?

No, the Council must:

What is the set procedure?

How long will it take for the gypsies/travellers 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.

Can the Court refuse to grant the Council an order to move gypsies/travellers on?

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. The Council must try to find out this information before going to Court.

Do gypsies/travellers have rights?

Yes, everyone has rights. Gypsies and travellers are protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values.

What about residents' rights if the gypsies/travellers are causing a disturbance?

If gypsies/travellers are behaving in an anti social manner, for example causing a disturbance, you should report it to the Police by calling 101.

Who has to clear up any mess that might be left behind?

It is the responsibility of the landowner. 

Have the council got a policy?

Yes. Please follow this link to Fareham Borough Council's Unauthorised Encampment Policy PDF (87 KB)

What can the Police do?

The Police will review all reports of unauthorised encampments and, if offences under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act are identified, can work in partnership with the council or land owner to resolve the situation by use of Police powers or supporting the land owner while they initiate legal repossession action of the land concerned. For more information contact Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary on 101 or via email External Hyperlink.

Useful contacts

Help us identify vulnerable land

Every year a number of gypsies and travellers illegally encamp on our land and although the Council works hard to substantially protect the land, there are areas that go undetected. If you see land across the Borough that appears particularly vulnerable to a possible invasion by gypsies and travellers (e.g. if fencing, gates or barriers are damaged, which could make access for the travellers onto the land easier) then we would be grateful if you could let us know about it. If the land is Council owned we will arrange to make repairs, and if the land is privately owned we will contact the owner and offer them advice.

Report vulnerable land

Please report any land that you feel is vulnerable to unlawful invasion by gypsies and travellers by e-mail or telephone 01329 236100.

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Fareham Borough Council, Civic Offices, Civic Way, Hampshire, PO16 7AZ
Tel: +44 (0) 1329 236100 | Mobile Text/Photo: 07860 098627
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