An unauthorised site or encampment is where people set up home on land without the landowner’s permission. This can be on private or council land.
We run 2 authorised sites in South Gloucestershire.
As there is no provision for emergency or transit accommodation every unauthorised encampment will be considered individually.
Council owned land
We manage unauthorised encampments on our land which includes any action to remove the encampment.
We are not permitted to remove encampments without a court order, except in cases of immediate danger.
We balance our duties to the public and the welfare needs of the unauthorised encampment. Our work is informed by legislation and common law.
What we do
If an unauthorised encampment appears on council land we:
- visit and assess it within 48 hours and then daily where possible following our encampment process
- begin negotiations to limit the length of stay
- give advice about waste and fly tipping and supply sufficient bags for domestic waste to promote a clean site whilst it is occupied
- deal with each encampment individually to make sure that legal duties are met, resources are used appropriately and the needs and the rights of everyone involved are balanced
- investigate and resolve issues and incidents raised by the public and respond within 24 hours where possible
- monitor events and make sure we act in line with the government’s best practice guidelines
Where negotiation is not successful and we are considering enforcement action to remove an encampment, we have a legal duty to carry out welfare assessments of families and individuals to identify any duties in relation to health, education and housing.
Each new encampment can take anywhere between 48 hours and 3 weeks to be removed. When the land has been recovered or vacated it will be assessed, cleaned and secured if necessary.
We decide on the eviction of unauthorised encampments by considering:
- public health and safety considerations including obstructions, danger to road users and environmental factors
- whether the encampment causes an unacceptable nuisance to nearby residents or businesses
- whether the encampment prevents or seriously interferes with the use of the land for its normal purpose
- the welfare of the families on the site
- whether there are grounds that the encampment cannot be managed effectively due to size or behaviour from site residents
Action to remove trespassers and to deal with any environmental issues from unauthorised encampments on private land is the responsibility of the landowner.
We can offer landowners information and advice but the landowner must start any action relating to removal.
You should talk to the people on your land to try and agree a leaving date.
If an agreement is not met and you are not willing to tolerate the encampment you can:
- get an order granting you possession of your land from the civil court
- ask the police to use powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 to remove unauthorised encampments
If a private landowner uses their land for an encampment without planning permission, we investigate and consider whether enforcement action is appropriate. You should undertake pre-application discussions with us as the local planning authority before occupying any land you propose to use as a permanent site.
What can the police do
The police may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to direct an encampment to leave. The police can use these powers where there are 2 or more people trespassing on the land and where the landowner has taken reasonable steps to ask them to leave.
One of the following must also apply:
- damage has been caused to the land or property
- threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, their family or agent
- the trespassers have 6 or more vehicles on the land
The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. The presence of an encampment alone with no aggravating factors will not trigger police action to remove it. We will always work closely with the police and will ask for their assistance where necessary.
Report an unauthorised encampment
Due to staff absences we will be unable to respond to reports from 10 to 25 August 2023. You can still report an unauthorised encampment using the details below. After 25 August reported encampments will be prioritised but there may be a delay in response. We apologise for any inconvenience. If you are concerned about an encampment you can contact the police on 101.
To report an unauthorised encampment contact us by:
Make sure you include:
- where the encampment is (be specific about the location)
- how many caravans are involved
- what your enquiry or complaint is