Unauthorised encampments FAQs

What is an unauthorised encampment?

An unauthorised encampment is when people, and or vehicles, enter land without the landowner's permission. This could include people living in tents or living in caravans. If people have entered land without the landowner’s permission, it is unauthorised and is a civil trespass.

It is not illegal for people to roam and live a nomadic lifestyle however people are not permitted to stay on land without the landowner's permission.

Many of the unauthorised encampments within our borough are usually associated with members of our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, who live a nomadic lifestyle travelling the country, stopping off on land for a period of time, and then moving on.

Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 together with all groups who have a particular culture, languages, or values.

Can the council remove encampments from their land immediately?

No, the council must:

  • identify if the land is council owned or private land.
  • show that the person(s) are on the land without consent;
  • make enquiries with the encampment regarding the general health, welfare and enquire about the children's education;
  • ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with;
  • follow a set procedure in terms of evicting the encampment.

What is the set procedure?

When an encampment arrives, the council and/or police are notified by members of the public. Council officers will make enquiries to identify if the land is council owned or private.

If the land is private, it is the responsibility of the landowner to commence proceedings for the removal of the encampment. If the land is council owned, a visit will be made by the council and the police as soon as possible.

A 'welfare needs assessment' is undertaken by the council on all persons on site.

Providing there are no high-risk welfare concerns, persons will be instructed to leave immediately by a council officer and a ‘notice’ will be issued to each person/vehicle under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

A search is carried out to establish if the land is owned by the council.

A statement must then be prepared by the council officer dealing with the case, noting all actions that have already been taken.

If the encampment does not leave by the specified date on the notice, a court hearing at the local Magistrates Court is applied for. This is required to obtain a court order authorised by the Court for a Section 78 notice under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to be issued to each person/vehicle for their requirement to leave. If they do not leave, they may be removed by bailiffs appointed by the council.

In some circumstances, the police may choose to invoke their emergency powers under Sections 61 and 6A-62 A-E under the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994; this means the encampment will be required to leave immediately. This power is only used when the threshold criteria is met. The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence.

How long will it take for the encampment to be removed?

This will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case.

The council will need to take account of the issues outlined above as well as how soon they can obtain a court hearing date.

Can the council not ban unauthorised encampments from the entire borough?

An injunction can be requested through the court procedure however it was ruled at The High Court on 12 May 2021 by Justice Nicklin that injunctions could no longer be issued to ‘persons unknown’.

As the procedure is civil and not criminal, persons are not legally obliged to give their names to the council and therefore it is not always possible to obtain these details.

The council must also demonstrate why they must be banned from the borough in its entirety and satisfy the Court that the action is justified.

Can the court refuse to grant the council an order to move the encampment on?

Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the encampment 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 encampment. The council must try to find out this information before going to court.

What about residents' rights if the encampment is causing a disturbance?

While the council may take steps to reduce the likelihood of the unauthorised use of land, prevention is difficult to achieve without damaging the natural look of an area, being cost affective, and rarely total prevention is ensured.

To add to this complexity, as a council we have a duty of care to those who move through the borough who may be vulnerable or belong to groups with protected characteristics.

When we have an unauthorised encampment there is a careful balance to ensure that our duties are fulfilled, the impact on the environment, the local residents affected are considered, and the legal procedure is completed appropriately.

If persons from within the encampment are behaving in an antisocial manner, you must report it to the police by dialling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Does the council have a duty to move persons of an authorised encampment on when they are camped without the landowner's permission?

The council do have an obligation to move people on when they are on council owned land. The council are not legally bound to remove persons from private land.

If there is an unauthorised encampment on private land, what can the landowner do?

Should an unauthorised encampment gain access without permission, it is considered a civil trespass. The landowner is responsible for the removal of the encampment and the landowner may wish to seek legal advice on the options available.

What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan/camping site the landowner could be in breach of Planning law.

If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the unauthorised encampment, what will the council do?

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or license requirements, then the council will take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

Who is responsible to clear up any mess that might be left behind?

It is the responsibility of the landowner.

Useful contacts

If persons from within the encampment are behaving in an antisocial manner, you must report it to the police by dialling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

East Hampshire District Council also runs an out of hours service. If you require help outside of our working hours, please call 07850 358156.

You can also visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website which promotes equality and human rights across England, Scotland and Wales.