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Unauthorised encampments

An unauthorised encampment is where people are living on a piece of land without the owners permission. They may be in vehicles or tents. Where the encampment is on public land report it to us. 

Report an unauthorised encampment on public or council land

You can report an unauthorised encampment on council or public land to us by: 

  • telephone: 01623 457345.

We will need to know details of where the camp is. 

What action we take

We will always try and move unauthorised encampments on as soon as we can. Unauthorised camping is not itself an offence but trespass is, and we can repossess land under civil law.

We must first: 

  • show that the occupiers are on land without the owner's consent
  • make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education of those in the encampment
  • ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with
  • follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of the land, details of the illegal encampment, service of notices and summonses that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the unauthorised occupiers to leave the site.

We cannot block entry or exit to the site once an encampment has been made.

We will try and negotiate with those in the encampment to have them move on. Where we have to take action through the courts it may take 7 to 10 days to to move the encampment on. The court can refuse the order if they feel the encampment has a valid reason for being there, or we haven't made full enquiries. 

Unauthorised encampments on private land

If an unauthorised encampment is made on private land it is the landowner's responsibility to take any action. We can support them with this. 

The police have a duty to maintain peace and prevent crime. They do have certain powers they could use to break up an unauthorised encampment (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 occupation of the land is a relevant factor. They cannot use them where it would stop a court considering any welfare needs. 

Preventing trespass and removing trespasses is the responsibility of the landowner. Breaking in or damaging property can be criminal offences and should be investigated by the police. Even if an individual is found or thought to be responsible for these acts the result would not be the removal of the encampment. 

If you see criminal activity being committed you should report it to the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency. 

Noise from encampments

We speak with people at the encampment about being considerate and they usually are.

If there is excessive noise you can report this to us and we may use it as part of an application to have the encampment moved on. 

Rubbish from encampments

Where the camp is on public or council land we make sure it is cleaned up after the camp has moved on. The tidiness of a site may be something we use as part of an application to have the encampment moved on. 

Where it has been on private land it is the responsibility of the landowner to arrange for the removal and disposal of waste.