Managing unauthorised sites on local authority owned land
Local authorities have a number of duties and powers in law including the management of unauthorised occupation by gypsies/travellers of land for which the council is responsible, and the impact this has on the local environment and settled community.
Unauthorised occupations are assessed against a set of criteria to determine what impact the encampment has on the use of the land, the size of the encampment and the level of nuisance. This will include a public health role (in conjunction with the appropriate health agencies) and the abatement of statutory nuisance. In addition, the welfare, education, human rights and needs of gypsies/travellers must be assessed.
These assessments should lead to a balanced view about the appropriate action to be taken for each unauthorised encampment.
Once we have made an assessment of needs and we agree a reasonable time when those occupying the side will move on. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the site is kept tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.
If during the course of their stay, those staying on the site cause a nuisance or damage the environment, we would take formal action to remove the encampment.
Process for removing an unauthorised sites on council land
Before we can remove an unauthorised encampment we must:
- show that the unauthorised campers 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 unauthorised visitors to leave the site.
This process may take a while and we have to obtain a court hearing date. The court can refuse to grant us an order to move unauthorised campers on if there is an unavoidable reason for them to stay on the site, or if the court believes that we have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the unauthorised campers.
In the meantime we try and agree a reasonable time by which they will move on anyway.
Managing unauthorised sites on privately owned land
When the encampment occurs on private land, the Local Authority will not take action itself, but is happy to give advice to the landowner.
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.