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Cambridge City Council

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Gypsies and Travellers: Advice for landowners

Does the council have a duty to move Gypsies or Travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission?

No. If Gypsies or Travellers are camped on council-owned land, the council can evict them, but if the encampment is on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility.

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

The first thing to do is to talk to them 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 contact Cambridgeshire County Council. It is a good idea to inform your solicitor of the situation and to ask about likely legal costs.

What if the Gypsies or 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 that they face a lot of intolerance and racism and may be cautious at first about talking openly. If you feel negotiations are not going well, leave discussion be 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 Cambridge City 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 (landowner's 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 and Travellers will vacate independently. You can engage private bailiffs to remove unauthorised occupiers without a possession order in some cases.

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 must 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 but we can offer you a quote for the work if you prefer.

What can the police do?

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

Cambridgeshire police carefully assess each incident of unauthorised camping and, under Department for Communities and Local Government and Home Office guidelines, act proportionately.

The police have powers to move Gypsies or Travellers off land where criminal activity by them can be established - just as crime committed by settled people has to be proven.

The police also have discretionary powers to direct Travellers off land where group behaviour goes against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

In certain circumstances (for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor.

The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the Gypsies or Travellers, what will the council do?

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then we will take proceedings against the landowner that require removal of the unauthorised encampment.

How can I find out more about Gypsies and Travellers?

There are a number of leaflets and publications available which give information about Gypsy and Traveller culture and lifestyle.