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Luton Borough Council

Gypsy and traveller frequently asked questions

 

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You can report an unauthorised encampment by calling the Council on 01582 510333.

Outside of these hours, please report encampments to Bedfordshire police on 101.

The law requires us to:

  • show that the unauthorised encampment is on the land without consent
  • ensure that human rights, equalities and other related legislation has been complied with
  • make enquiries about the general health and welfare of the group and the children’s education
  • follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the unauthorised encampment
  • gather sufficient evidence to demonstrate to a court of law that the unauthorised encampment is causing detriment or denial of open space usage to the local community

Sites can be removed in as little as 4 days but can take much longer due to the specific circumstances of the occupiers of the encampment or available resources.

Yes, if:

  • there is an unavoidable reason for the encampment to stay
  • the council has failed to follow the proper processes and procedures
  • there is insufficient evidence of the encampment having a significant impact on the local community
It is important that we take the time to make all enquiries, follow all procedures, and collate the necessary evidence, before appearing before a magistrate to seek a court order.

No. It is illegal to stop entry/exit following initial occupation. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. If an encampment has been set up without permission, the council and/or police must follow the legislation and guidelines and seek eviction through the courts if necessary.

Yes, in some exceptional circumstances.

The police have a similar power to direct encampments to move on wherever the landowner or his agent has asked the occupants to move on by a particular date and time, and they have failed to do so, and the unauthorised campers have caused damage to the land or property on the land; or used threatening behaviour to the occupier of the land, or there are six or more vehicles on the land.

In those circumstances the police may use a section 61 direction to require the occupants to vacate the land. This is done without reference to the court.

A senior officer will determine whether or not to issue the direction based on:

  • whether there are other activities on the encampments, such as ASB
  • whether it is reasonable and proportionate to use police powers given the impact on the environment and the local settled community
  • the action by police being legally sustainable

Breaking in and damaging property are criminal offences which are investigated by the police. They will be subject to sufficient evidence and witness statements. Witnesses would be required to make a statement to the courts confirming that they can identify the person(s) who caused the damage.

If you see any criminal activity being carried out by any member of the public, please report it to the police by phoning 101.

Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibility of the landowner - not the police.

We visit unauthorised encampments on council land. We provide practical help to ensure every effort is made to try to keep the site tidy.

We always ensure that any waste is removed from the site after the encampment has moved on.

Private landowners are responsible for the removal of waste from their land.

We can give advice to landowners. If requested by the landowner, we may be able to act on their behalf.

The landowner will have to take action to evict the unauthorised encampment. He/she can attempt to agree a leaving date with the representatives of the encampment, or take proceedings in the county court to obtain a possession order.

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then we will take proceedings against the landowner to remove the illegal encampment.

If the landowner has planning permission for a caravan site, or he/she is a farmer and the occupants of the encampment are working on the farm, the encampment is not unauthorised.

Encampments in car parks are 'unauthorised', and the legal process for eviction is entirely separate from the normal enforcement of car parking terms and conditions.

Enforcement of car parking terms and conditions is difficult to apply in the case of travellers. In such circumstances, chasing an unenforceable fine adds unnecessary costs. The most effective remedy is to seek possession through the courts.

Also, issuing and enforcing car parking charges could deem the encampment to be authorised. This could be counter productive to the process of managing and seeking a court order to evict an unauthorised encampment.

We regularly review security arrangements at popular sites in an attempt to deter unauthorised vehicle access. We consider the installation of:

  • bollards
  • boulders
  • fencing
  • gates
  • landscaping
as possible security measures for individual sites.

Protecting all of our sites during such periods would require the provision of 24 hour security and temporary barriers for up to 2 days and at a moments notice. Access by legitimate users and maintenance and emergency vehicles would also be severely curtailed.

It is more feasible and cost-effective to manage unauthorised encampments as and when they occur, and where necessary to take legal proceedings to evict them.

© 2020 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ