Unauthorised Encampments - Private Land

Gypsy and Traveller encampments on private land

In the event of an encampment on your land, the responsibility for action lies with you as the landowner. In the absence of aggravating factors, the police have no powers to prevent people from trespassing on private land - this is a civil offence.

In many cases, it is possible for landowners to speak directly with the Gypsies or Travellers and negotiate a common agreement as to how long the group might stay. Where this is not possible, a solicitor will be able to advise you on the legal procedure for recovery of land through the County Court, under part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

When the encampment has moved on, it is the Landowner's responsibility to clear any rubbish or waste from the site.

Can I allow Gypsies and Travellers to stay on my land?

Only if you already have planning permission for a caravan site, or you are a farmer and the Gypsies/Travellers are helping with fruit picking etc. Otherwise you may be in breach of planning or licensing law and we will take action against you.

Can you evict Gypsies/Travellers who are camped on my land without my permission?

No. It will be your responsibility to take action in the civil courts.

Report an unathorised encampment:

Private land     

What can the police do?

The police will visit sites reported to them and make an assessment. In certain circumstances, for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles, officers may use their powers to move them on but it will depend on individual circumstances.

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

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 may choose to evict them. If the encampment is on private land, there may be planning implications but the landowner's have the initial responsibility.

What do I do if Gypsies/Travellers come to my land?

The first thing to do is to talk to the Gypsies/Travellers to make it clear that this is actually your land. Ask why they are there, and how long they are hoping to stay. Assess if they are causing a disturbance. If the encampment has spread onto a Right of Way or Highway, you should report it using the online reporting form. It is a good idea to inform your solicitor of the situation and to ask about likely legal costs.

What if the Gypsies/Travellers won't talk to me?

Most Gypsy and Traveller families welcome the opportunity to speak to other members of the community. Bear in mind though Travellers can be suspicious of people from outside their community and may be cautious at first about talking openly. If you feel negotiations are not going well, leave the discussion for the time being and seek advice from your solicitor.

If there aren't any problems, is it ok to let them stay?

Some landowners are happy to let small groups stay where good relations are established early and there are no major problems. Some welcome the contribution Gypsy and Traveller culture makes to trade and community life - even if just for a short time. Long-term occupation will require planning permission from Chichester District Council.
What if I need to reclaim possession of my land?
Your solicitor will most likely advise that possession be sought in the Civil Courts under Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules. This will involve:

  • Asking trespassers to leave (landowners responsibility)
  • Issuing and serving a court summons
  • Seeking a possession order in court
  • Serving the possession order, and, if necessary
  • Executing a warrant for possession with County Court Bailiffs

Usually, once an order is served, Gypsies/Travellers will vacate independently. You can engage private bailiffs to remove unauthorised occupiers without a possession order in some cases, but you should take legal advice before pursuing this course of action.

Please note that when proceedings are undertaken in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for eviction, there should usually be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.

What will this cost me?

Your solicitor will charge their own fees, so check costs first. Disposing of rubbish will be at your own cost.

What can the Police do?

The Police will visit all sites reported to them but trespass is a civil matter and not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the Police.

Criminal Damage

If damage is caused or people have been threatened, this is a police matter:

  • If it is an emergency, dial 999
  • In all other cases, contact Devon and Cornwall Police on 101