The council owns parcels of land in exactly the same way as any other private landowner and in its capacity as local Highway Authority has responsibility for use of the highways.
The council has a legal duty to... "assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority". (s.130, Highways Act 1980).
The council's Environment Enforcement Team is responsible for dealing with unauthorised encampments on land owned by Wiltshire Council or on the public highway.
The Housing Team is responsible for operating and managing Wiltshire's two residential Gypsy sites. Please don't contact the Housing Team to report unauthorised encampments.
You can report an unauthorised encampment using our online reporting system, or you can contact Wiltshire council on 0300 456 0100.
An unauthorised encampment is when an individual or group of individuals move onto a piece of land that they don't own, without the permission of the landowner.
People parking caravans on their own land without planning permission are not unauthorised encampments (in that they cannot trespass on their own land) - they are 'Unauthorised Developments' and are always dealt with by enforcement of planning legislation by Wiltshire council.
Unauthorised developments can be reported to Planning enforcement.
Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPOA) gives local authorities the power to direct individuals to remove their vehicles and belongings and to leave highway land, or any land occupied without the consent of the landowner, whether owned by the local authority itself or by any other public or private landowner.
If the campers have failed to move and/or remove any vehicles and other property by the date specified in the Direction, or return to the same location within three months of the date of the Direction, they are then committing a criminal offence and may be arrested by the police. If a prosecution is successful they may then be given a custodial sentence of up to three months, or be liable to a fine of up to £1,000.
Alternatively, the council may pursue unauthorised campers who have contravened a direction under Section 77 by using their powers under Section 78 of the CJPOA. This allows local authorities to advise the Magistrates' Court of the contravention and, if the court is satisfied, then they may grant an Order for Removal of Persons and Vehicles.
Before commencing any action to evict an unauthorised encampment, local authorities have an obligation to carry out welfare assessments of the unauthorised campers. This may necessitate the involvement of local NHS bodies, where health issues are apparent.
Part 55 of Civil Procedure Rules allows any landowner to regain possession of his/her land.
The first step is for the landowner to ask the trespassers to leave the land.
If they refuse to do so, or ask to be allowed to remain for what the landowner considers to be an unacceptable time period, the landowner can then begin action against the unauthorised campers through the County Court.
It should be noted that, where the landowner is a local authority or other public body, the necessary welfare assessments should be carried out alongside the court procedures and should be completed before any eviction is carried out.
The lead agency in the removal of an unauthorised encampment will almost always be the council. The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. The police will visit the site and in certain circumstances may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 if they consider it appropriate. These powers are discretionary and It is for the police alone to decide if Section 61 is to be utilised.
The Police can only use S.61 if the landowner has asked the unauthorised campers to leave the land by a particular date and time, and they have failed to do so, and any of the three following conditions have also been met:
- The unauthorised campers have caused damage to the land or property on the land
- They have used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to the occupier, a member of his family or his employee or agent
- There are six or more vehicles on the land.
A senior police officer then considers whether it is appropriate to use the power, based on various factors:
- Whether there are there other activities on the encampment, such as serious breaches of the peace, disorder, criminal activity or anti-social behaviour which would necessitate police involvement under their wider powers;
- Given the impact of the unauthorised encampment on the environment and the local settled community, is it reasonable and proportionate to use police powers;
- Is action by the police legally sustainable;
- Are sufficient resources available.
The police can use Section 61 of the CJPOA to direct unauthorised campers to leave the site. They can do this without reference to the courts.
Although case law (R v The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police ex p. Small) has established that police officers are not under any obligation to undertake welfare enquiries with unauthorised campers, they must be aware of humanitarian considerations when considering action to remove an encampment.
Section 62A of the CJPOA allows the police to direct trespassers to remove themselves and their vehicles and property from land where a suitable pitch on a relevant caravan site is available within the same local authority area.
It is the landowner's responsibility to take the necessary action to evict the encampment.
The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the travellers or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedures Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction as trespassers.
- You can seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau
We operate a balanced approach towards Travellers, as suggested by case law and Government guidelines. Whenever an Unauthorised Encampment occurs, the Enforcement 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.
No, the council must :
- Show that the travellers are on land without consent
- Make enquiries regarding general health, welfare and children's education
- Ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with
To do this, the council follows a set procedure based on Government guidance which involves proving ownership of the land, obtaining details of the encampment, assessing an encampment's effects on the local area, serving notices and summonses that will enable necessary authority to be obtained from the courts to order the travellers to leave the site.
In certain circumstances the council will work with Wiltshire Police and request use of S.61 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to promptly remove encampments.
Highways and Environment
Phone: 0300 456 0100