Problems with Gypsies or Travellers encampments

Legal information about encampments and what to do if you have problems with Gypsies or Travellers.

Standards of expected behaviour

Any unauthorised stay on land is limited in time and is dependent on Travellers complying with the code.

The code of conduct is handed out to unauthorised Traveller sites in Oxfordshire.

Travellers should:

  • treat the land they are occupying with respect
  • respect the rights of other people who also wish to use the area
  • keep the same standard of behaviour that is expected of the settled community (those living on permanent council-owned or private sites).

The code states that Travellers must not:

  • force entry to land, by causing damage to any fixtures, fittings or landscaping (including planted areas)
  • cause any other damage to the land itself, or property on it
  • drive vehicles along any footpath or rights of way not specifically designed for road vehicles
  • park vehicles or caravans on any road/footpath causing an obstruction to people wanting to pass
  • dump or tip rubbish, waste materials or trade waste, such as tree cuttings and rubble
  • deposit or leave human waste openly in public areas
  • abuse, intimidate or harass any person who is lawfully using the area
  • make excessive noise or indulge in other forms of anti-social behaviour
  • let animals get out of control or allow them to attack people using the land, or passing nearby
  • interfere with electricity, water or gas supplies which may result to criminal proceedings
  • leave the area untidy.

What should I do if someone breaches the code?

Members of the public should contact us when anyone breaches the code. The above information relates to unauthorised encampments where criminal activity is not involved. Where there is suspicion of criminal activity, the police should be notified in order that appropriate action can be taken. 

Unlawful encampment

If you feel the location of an encampment in Oxfordshire is unlawful.

Problems with the settled community

If you are having problems within the settled community (a community on a permanent council-managed or authorised private site)

Information we will need from you

  • The location of the encampment.
  • How many caravans are involved.
  • Your enquiry or complaint.

Questions and answers that might help you

If Gypsies or Travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?

Start by talking to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed. If this is unsuccessful they can take proceedings in the county court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a court order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing.

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

No. If they are camped on council land, the council can evict them. If it is private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility. The government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

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

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the Gypsies/Travellers are helping with fruit picking etc, then the landowner could be in breach of planning acts and the acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.

If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the Gypsies/Travellers, 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.

I have seen Gypsies/Travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other council-owned land, what can the council do in these cases?

If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. The council will consider each case on its merits. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.

Can the council remove Gypsies/Travellers from their land immediately?

No, the council must:

  • show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on the land without consent
  • make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
  • ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with
  • they must also follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site.

How long will it take for the Gypsies/Travellers 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 court refuse to grant the council an order to move Gypsies/Travellers on?

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

What can the police do?

The police will visit all sites reported to them. 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 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the police. The police will investigate all criminal and public order offences.

Gypsy and Traveller Service policies and procedures