Frequently asked questions

Travelling communities and other groups occasionally make unauthorised encampments – moving vehicles and caravans onto Council or privately-owned land.

The following frequently asked questions may be useful in answering your concerns or queries:

How quickly can the council remove an unauthorised encampment from council-owned land?
The law requires us to:

  • show that the unauthorised encampment is on council-owned 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 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 of open space usage in the local community.

The above information is required to be successful in the application for a court order for the removal of an illegal encampment to the magistrates court.

The timescale for an eviction order application to be heard at court depends on court availability, the nature of the land being occupied and the behaviour of the campers. On public open space where the campers are denying lawful use of the land, the process from start to eviction could be five to seven days. On other sites where campers are not causing significant detriment to the local community the eviction process could take around two weeks.

What should I do if I see an apparently unauthorised encampment in the Borough?
You should call our Customer Service Centre on 023 8068 8000 or complete our enquiry form

What happens when the Council receives a report of an unauthorised encampment?
Council officers will carry out a site visit, and make initial enquiries of the occupants and establish how many people are on site and caravan/ vehicle details and identify who the landowner is. If the unauthorised encampment is on council-owned land, we will instruct Hampshire County Council’s Gypsy Liasion Officer to carry out a welfare assessment of the occupants of the encampment before any decision is made in respect of issuing a Direction to request that they leave the land. If the occupants are on private land, enquiries will be made to establish land ownership and the landowner will be notified of the encampment.

Is the Council required to move unauthorised encampments when they are on council-owned land?
If an unauthorised encampment is on council-owned land, we have the power to move the vehicles and caravans but are not required to do so. We can only evict the unauthorised encampment subject to complying with Human Rights legislation and other legal procedures.

Is the Council able to move unauthorised encampments on private land?
If an unauthorised encampment is on private land including land owned by Parish or Town
Councils, it is primarily the landowner’s responsibility to deal with the eviction.

Does the Council have to take into account the Race Relations Act and the Human Rights Act when dealing with Gypsies and Travellers?
Yes, race relations legislation recognises gypsies and travellers as a specific racial group. With regards to human rights, the issue that the council must take into account is whether the interference with Gypsy/Traveller family life and home is justified and proportionate.

Why don’t the Police take the lead role in evicting the unauthorised encampment?
Trespass is not a criminal offence, it is a civil matter and as such the police are not responsible for dealing or managing the unauthorised encampment. The Police however work very closely with us to help manage unauthorised encampments and when appropriate will take action to deal with problems that may arise.

Can the police take action against an unauthorised encampment?
The Police will visit the unauthorised encampment in certain circumstances and may choose to use their powers under s.61 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It is for the senior officer who visits the unauthorised encampment to decide what action should be taken if using their powers.

What happens if unauthorised encampments are on private land?
We will not take steps to remove unauthorised encampments from private land, but in some circumstances might be able to offer the landowner advice and assistance. We cannot give the landowner legal advice and/or recommend any particular course of legal action.

Further guidance