Travellers

Travellers

With a tradition of seasonal agricultural work, the district has one of Britain's highest traveller populations.

There are three Council Caravan Sites for travellers:

  • Burwell (8 pitches),
  • Earith Bridge (13 pitches)
  • Wentworth (8 pitches)

The District Council manages the sites although the County Council owns Burwell and Earith Bridge.

Priority is given to local travellers who live in the district or have visited regularly over many years or have close family ties with travellers already living permanantly in the district. Travellers from neighbouring districts are considered if a local traveller does not require a vacant plot.

Travellers living on the sites are licensees not tenants and a weekly charge is made for each pitch equivalent to the average rent for social housing plus a water charge.

Where occasional problems occur with unauthorised encampments a court order may be obtained to move them on.

Contact the Council about Travellers

The Council's Travellers Liaison Officer will be able to help you:

Telephone: 01353-665555
Email: customerservices@eastcambs.gov.uk

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Unauthorised Encampments

If a traveller moves onto a piece of land what should I do?

Contact the Councils Traveller Liaison Officer (TLO). Let him know where the travellers are, how long they have been there and the number of vans that have pulled up onto the land. The TLO will then find out who owns the land. The landowner will then be notified.

Telephone: 01353-665555
Email: customerservices@eastcambs.gov.uk

Alternatively, you can report a traveller encampment online using the link below:

The TLO will usually visit the travellers and find out where they have come from, how long they are intending to stay and who they are. At the same time he will advise them not to cause a nuisance and that all rubbish should be bagged up.

If you own the land, you or your solicitor can go to the County Court and obtain an order granting possession of your land.

Can the Council move travellers on immediately?

No, because the Council first has to be able to show that the travellers are on the land without the consent of the owner. In addition, in some cases enquiries must initially be made regarding the welfare and rights of travellers before deciding on whether to take any action. If action is to be taken the travellers must be asked to leave. If they refuse the landowner can then obtain a summons to serve on them. The court can subsequently issue an order permitting the landowner to move the travellers.

The Government guidelines for dealing with Unauthorised Encampments states that "Unauthorised camping is not a criminal offence and (the Government) has no plans to make it so". Trespass is a civil offence, giving landowners and Local Authorities the right to possess their property using the due process of law.

Does the Council have a duty to remove travellers when they are camped on land without the owner's permission?

No. It may depend on whether the local authority considers the travellers are causing a level of nuisance, which cannot be effectively controlled. Primarily, the responsibility for moving travellers rests with the landowner.

  • If the land is privately owned the landowner will need to obtain an order through the county court granting possession of the land.
  • If the land is owned by the County Council the district TLO will contact the county TLO and ask them to visit the land.
  • If the land is owned by the District Council the TLO will notify the Council's legal section.

What legislation is open to Local Authorities to move travellers off a piece of land?

The owners of land (including a Local Authority) can apply under Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules for an order issued by the County Court. Exceptionally the claim may be issued in the High Court under order 113 if there is a substantial risk of public disturbance or of serious harm to persons or property, which properly require immediate attention. It should be remembered that responsibility for removal of travellers from private land rests with the landowner.

In addition, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives Local Authorities in England and Wales powers to make directions to leave land being used by itinerant groups (section 77). It is offence to fail to comply with such a direction. In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for the accused to show that his failure to leave or remove his vehicle or other property as soon as practicable, or his re entry with a vehicle was due to illness, mechanical breakdown or other immediate emergency. If a direction to leave is not complied with the Local Authority can apply to the Magistates Court for an order requiring the removal of vehicles and any occupants from the land (section 78).

Can a Magistrate refuse to grant an order to move travellers?

Yes. If there is a reason for the travellers to stay on the site such as a medical condition or breakdown of a vehicle

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives Local Authorities in England and Wales powers to make directions to leave land being used by itinerant groups (section 77). It is offence to fail to comply with such a direction. In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for the accused to show that his failure to leave or remove his vehicle or other property as soon as practicable, or his re entry with a vehicle was due to illness, mechanical breakdown or other immediate emergency. If a direction to leave is not complied with the Local Authority can apply to the Magistrates Court for an order requiring the removal of vehicles and any occupants from the land (section 78).

Do the Police have a duty to do anything to help with unauthorised travellers camps?

The Police and the Council work very closely over incidents of unauthorised camping. They have a duty to preserve the peace and prevent offences against people and property and this applies to the whole of the community including travellers.

Trespass on land in itself is a civil offence not a criminal offence and prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner not the Police.

In certain Circumstances a senior Police Officer has the discretion to order the travellers to leave and remove any vehicles and other property they may have with them (sections 61 and 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and Anti Social Behavior Act 2003)

If they fail to do so they may commit an offence and may be taken to court. The Police must be satisfied that the owner/occupier of the site has taken reasonable steps to get them to leave.

Civil remedies exist and should normally be exhausted before the power is exercised except in cases of serious disorder.

I have seen travellers camping on sides of roads, parks or other Council owned land. What can the Council do in these cases?

If the travellers are causing a level of nuisance which cannot be effectively controlled, they will be moved on as soon as possible in accordance with the law. If the Council does not consider they are causing a problem the encampment may be tolerated for a limited time but the travellers will be told they are trespassing. In each case the encampment is visited to ensure the site is kept clean to avoid public health problems. The welfare agencies are informed of their presence and arrangements are made for domestic rubbish to be collected regularly.

If I own land what can I do to deter travellers from camping?

  • Make earth barriers
  • Plough the land so vehicles sink in.
  • Reduce access width and/or headroom by use of barriers.
  • Erect locked gates across the entrance.
  • Use the land for some purpose that makes it unsuitable to live on.

What if I decide to let travellers stay on my land?

Unless you have already obtained planning consent for a caravan encampment or you are a farmer and they are helping you with temporary seasonal work etc., then you could be in breach of planning law.

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