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Gypsy and traveller sites

Everyone has rights, including travellers and gypsies and people on whose land unauthorised camping takes place.

Gypsies and travellers are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values.

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.

The travelling lifestyle

Gypsies and travellers pursue a way of life that 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.

Camps on council or private land

We do not have a duty to move gypsies and travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission. If gypsies or travellers are camped on council land, then we can evict them.

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

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

  • Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.
  • 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.

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the gypsies or travellers are helping with fruit picking and such like, 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 the our Environmental Health section, who deal with illegal encampments.

If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the gypsies or travellers, then the council will take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

Camps on the side of the road, parks or other council-owned land

If gypsies or travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. We will consider each case on its merits. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the gypsies and 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.

We cannot remove gypsies or travellers from their land immediately. We must:

  • Show that they are on the land without consent.
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education.
  • Ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with.
  • Follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable us to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the gypsies or travellers to leave the site.

The court

The court can refuse to grant the council an order to move the gypsies or travellers on if there is an unavoidable reason for them 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 and travellers. The council must try to find out this information before going to court.

The police

The police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example, where the gypsies and travellers have with them 6 or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor.

The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the police. The police will investigate all criminal and public order offences.

Contact

0300 303 8879

Highways and Engineering Service
Number One Riverside
Smith Street
Rochdale OL16 1XU ​