There is a consistent, county wide approach to managing Unauthorised Encampments within Warwickshire. This approach aims to ensure that the local communities and the travelling communities are treated fairly.
An unauthorised encampment is a site where Gypsies and Travellers, or other unauthorised campers, camp on land they do not own and do not have permission to use.
Unauthorised encampment in my area
Warwickshire County Council works closely with all District and Borough as well as Warwickshire Police. If there is an unauthorised encampment in you area you can either contact Gypsy and Traveller Service directly (tel 01926 418033) or you can contact your local council or the police.
We will need to identify the owner of the land.
If an unauthorised encampment is on County or Highway land, one of our officers would go out to visit the encampment to obtain some basic information before further action is taken.
Based on the information given by the Gypsies and Travellers a decision will be made as to whether the encampment should be allowed to remain for an agreed period and whether to take legal action.
Unauthorised encampments will not be tolerated where:
- The occupants are known to have previously disregarded the site rules within the county;
- The encampment is creating a hazard to road safety;
- There is a danger to public or personal safety or the environment;
- The encampment is creating an intolerable impact on the employment, use or habitation of adjoining or nearby property;
- The encampment is too large for its location;
- The land is needed for use by the Lead Authority or the general public;
- There has been advice from the Police which suggests that alleged criminal activity is taking place.
Unauthorised Encampment FAQs
What is the procedure and timetable for eviction?
We operate a balanced approach towards Travellers, as suggested by case law and Government guidelines. Whenever an Unauthorised Encampment occurs, the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer visits and makes an assessment of the situation.
If it is in a quiet location and causing little nuisance a decision may be made to leave them in place for an agreed period, as there is no point in evicting from one site to a worse one. It is in everyone’s interest to agree a leaving date with the Travellers, as they get a period of stability and we save the not inconsiderable costs of eviction.
We think that this is an intolerable site. How long before you can evict?
We know that judgements about nuisance and tolerability are purely subjective and that our views may not be the same but we have to work in the wider public interest.
If and when we decide to take legal action there are still procedures to be followed. The Courts require public bodies like local councils (but not private landowners) to take account of considerations of common humanity, so we must carry out needs and welfare audits to discover if any allowances should be made before we proceed. We then put our case together and apply for a court date. Assuming that we are granted our Order, we then apply for a Warrant and book the Court Bailiff. It is impossible to put a time to this process but you can see that it is not an instant remedy.
You say that negotiation saves money but does it work?
Absolutely, although not in every case. Gypsy Travellers who tend to visit urban areas to carry out their business interests, usually only want to stay a few weeks so rushing into court is money wasted.
While these Travellers are working a particular area they will try to stay in the vicinity until the work runs out, so if we evict early it tends only to be to another, equally unsatisfactory location nearby.
Can’t you stop illegal encampments occurring in the first place? Why don’t you work together with the police and other local authorities so that you know when they are coming?
We do work together on this and we do pass information on when we have it.
Large-scale encampments need special treatment and get it but most of our encampments are 12 vehicles or fewer and we do not have the resources to play cat and mouse with them. Not only that, Travellers have to be somewhere and it is no good the police chasing them from pillar to post – sooner or later they will have to park up and the complaints will begin. Unless local authorities can provide suitable stopping places, Travellers will continue to find their own.
That’s defeatist attitude. They have chosen to live the way they do. If we make life as uncomfortable as possible for them, block vulnerable sites off and evict Travellers as soon as they arrive, they will soon get fed up and try another county or get themselves houses and jobs like the rest of us!
If only it was so simple. Gypsy Travellers have been around for hundreds of years and there is no reason to suppose that they are going to disappear in the near future. New Travellers began to appear in the Sixties and are now into a third generation.
Even if the law permitted a zero tolerance approach it wouldn’t work if everyone operated it because you would just be shunting Travellers back and forth across borders.
Why don’t you put really strong defences in place to stop Travellers breaking in to sites?
That’s a very good question with a slightly complicated answer. It is a national problem that traditional stopping places are being protected to such an extent that Travellers are being forced into larger groups and on to more conspicuous sites. They are also more likely to seek to prolong their stay if their options for alternative sites are reduced.
Also, there are considerations to be taken into account when designing protective measures. They have to be economic and they have to take account of the other uses of the site. For example, public areas and picnic sites must continue to give access to the general public but if some access is allowed there is always an opportunity for unwanted visitors to break in.
What do Travellers cost the people of Warwickshire?
Everything that government and local government do has a cost and whichever way we work Gypsy and Traveller Issues will cause some costs to fall upon the taxpayer. Considering how difficult it is for Travellers to access any public services, they actually cost very little in the wider scheme of things
legal evictions cost money.
A simple unopposed legal eviction of a small encampment will cost between one and three thousand pounds, and a large resisted removal could cost up to thirty thousand pounds in Warwickshire.
It does get worse because if there are successful legal challenges in the High Court the costs for us and the police keep climbing. These are of course one-off costs. When we or the police move one encampment we create another one, and the more frequently we evict the more encampments and
evictions we have.
These can be considerable but the press often inflate the figures by including other sums, such as defensive measures to prevent a reoccurrence, and estimated loss of revenue for nearby facilities such as car parks and leisure centres. It is also true that Traveller encampments in rural areas attract fly-tipping, much of which is clearly not attributable to the campers.
Many rural sites are left spotless and there is no cost the taxpayer but typically we might spend between £200 and £500 to remove abandoned vehicles and other rubbish after an eviction. Of course some problem sites cost a great deal more. Generally speaking, there is more rubbish left after a legal eviction than a negotiated removal.
Is there any way of getting Travellers to pay for the damage they cause?
Gypsies and Travellers are subject to the same laws as the rest of us. The difficulty is tracing the individual responsible.