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What can be done if Travellers pitch up on council-owned land without permission

A look at what the law says about unauthorised encampments

A number of Traveller encampments have popped up on council-owned land in Chester and Ellesmere Port recently.

Our sister paper The Liverpool Echo has taken a look at what the law says on these unauthorised encampments.

Here are some of the main issues involved with getting Travellers to move on if they have pitched up without permission.

Where travellers can not park

Obviously, travellers can not set up camp on any land they do not have permission for.

Housing charity Shelter gives a list of places travellers can not park at all and would face immediate eviction.

It's an offence to park:

  • on a road or verge or in a layby in a way that obstructs or could be a danger to other users of the road
  • on cultivated land such as farm land
  • in enclosed plantations such as land owned by the Forestry Commission

What about council land?

Some councils may have areas of waste ground that can be used temporarily by travellers as unauthorised sites.

If they are parked on council land a representative with visit the site and will assess whether they should be moved on or not.

A council rep will need to consider how long they are planning to stay, if anyone is ill, elderly or pregnant - it could be a risk to move them - and any safety issues that affect the site, for example, if it is by a railway line.

The council also need to consider if the number of vehicles is appropriate for the size of the area, what the land is normally used for and whether it's needed in the near future, any potential damage to the land and the effect on the local community.

What the council has to do while travellers are there

Legal action was taken to evict travellers from the Rossmore Road West playing fields in Ellesmere Port

The council may provide facilities such as portable toilets and bin bags for rubbish for the travellers and they would be charged a small fee.

Travellers can ask the council to provide these facilities in the interests of public health.

What happens next?

Local authorities must apply for injunctions and court orders.

The council must firstly show that the travellers are on the land without consent.

Removal time will depend upon when a court hearing date can be obtained.

In many instances, however, a leaving date will be agreed with the travellers to prevent eviction.

What about the police?

Travellers in about a dozen caravans pitched up on land off Whitby Lane, Ellesmere Port, in July(Image: Trinity Mirror Copyright)

The council or landowner can contact the police if a traveller site is trespassing and they can be immediately evicted from the site if there are two or more people, they have six or more vehicles parked on the land or one of them has caused damage or behaved in a threatening or abusive manner.

The police will ask a traveller encampment to move on as soon as it's practical for you to do so. They should be given time to pack up the site and fix any broken-down vehicles.

What if they don't move?

If the travellers fail to move on in the time given, or return to the same site within three moths, it is a criminal offence.

This can lead to a fine or prison sentence if convicted. The police also have the right to tow away vehicles, which will then be destroyed if not claimed within 21 days.

What you can do if you are concerned about an unauthorised traveller encampment

You should contact your local council and alert them so they can carry out their assessments for the well-being of the travellers and the effects on the local area and community.

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