Unauthorised encampments

How can I report an unauthorised encampment?

Please use our report an unauthorised encampment form or contact customer services.

How is the council involved?

We are only directly involved if we own the land, although council officers are called upon frequently to advise private landowners. In most cases, it is the landowner's responsibility to evict those trespassing upon their land.

Is unauthorised camping a criminal offence?

No, but it is a civil offence.

Acts of vandalism, such as fence cutting, are a criminal offence. The police may consider taking action against an individual if there is clear evidence linking them to forced entry.

Who is responsible for evicting encampments?

In most circumstances, it is the landowner. A landowner, or an agent acting on their behalf, can get an eviction order through the civil courts requiring the removal of any trespassers from the land. We can't act on behalf of private landowners in civil proceedings.

We work closely with the landowner and Thames Valley Police to ensure a coordinated approach to dealing with illegal encampments.

Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 we can seek a court order to remove an unauthorised encampment from our land. The police also have powers under this act to evict unauthorised campers from any land if they have caused damage to property, used threatening behaviour or have six or more vehicles on the land. The use of these powers is however restricted by other legal provisions such as the Race Relations Act and Human Rights legislation

What is the process for evicting unauthorised campers?

Landowners who want to evict unauthorised campers have to comply with the law. Typically, the process for eviction through civil courts is as follows:

  • the landowner informs the campers that they must move and of his/her intention to seek a court order if they refuse
  • the landowner applies for a court hearing date
  • campers are given a minimum two days' notice of the hearing date
  • the landowner obtains an eviction order from the court - these orders are usually served on the campers on the same day and eviction normally takes place within a few days

On average the process takes at least 7 days given that civil courts are usually closed at weekends and bank holidays.

Will campers always be automatically evicted from unauthorised sites?

Government guidance on unauthorised encampments states that if the encampment is causing 'little or no nuisance' a policy of toleration should be considered together with a negotiated leaving date.

The council also has a duty to establish if travellers on its land have special medical needs and to offer school places to children.

In dealing with unauthorised encampments, we recognise the rights of travellers, for example under the Human Rights Act and the Race Relations legislation. Council officers will seek to ensure that their actions are proportionate and balance the needs of travellers with the needs of the settled community.

Who pays to clear up after the illegal encampment has left?

If fly-tipping and fouling of the land has occurred and remains after the site has been vacated it is the landowner's responsibility to arrange and pay for the clean up. We urge local landowners to take steps to protect their land from unlawful trespass and thereby avoid huge clear-up costs

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