Unauthorised encampments

An unauthorised encampment is a group of people with vehicles who are trespassing on land with the intention of residing there without the owner's permission.

What happens when an encampment is set up in the Royal Borough

When an encampment is set up on council land, council officers attend the site and make an assessment of the situation. This assessment will determine the most appropriate approach to bring an encampment to an end. The decision is kept under review by the council.

The council is not responsible for encampments on private property. Encampments on private property are the responsibility of the landowner.

What we can do about an encampment

The local authority must take a balanced and proportionate approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments based on an objective assessment of the impact of the encampment. This will include assessing the needs of the encampment and the settled community and the impact and harm on the local community.

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

Where people are residing in vehicles (including caravans), Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives local authorities power to give a direction to leave the land to the occupiers. For example, we use this when lived in vehicles are parked on a highway.

Should the occupiers not leave the land as required a court order will be required to remove them. The usual timeframe to obtain a court order in the Royal Borough is a week to 10 working days as this is dependant on court time. 

The following steps are taken by the council:

  Actions Timescales

Arrival of unauthorised encampment - council officers attend site, ask occupiers to leave the site in capacity as land owner and undertake welfare and human rights assessments.

Within 24 hours of referral made to the council.  Where a referral is made at the weekend or bank holiday action will be taken the next working day.

Notices of direction to leave land - providing up to 24 hours to leave the land (should there be no factors that the local authority need to take into consideration)    . 

Within 24 hours of the initial assessments being undertaken.

Revisit to determine if the encampment is still present.

After the expiry of the notice.

Application to Magistrates Court to request a court order, if the notice to leave land is not complied with.

Within 24 hours of the revisit, paperwork and evidence submitted to the legal team, who make the application to the courts.

Summons issued by the Courts to all parties.

A minimum of 24 hours notice provided to all parties (encampment and council) of the court hearing date. There is no set time between the application and summons, this is dependant on court availability to process. 
6 Hearing at Magistrates Court - council to request a court order. Hearing date usually 7-10 working days from referral to legal.
7 Court order granted specifying deadline to vacate the site and paperwork served on occupiers. Court order to be served by the council the same day it is issued by the courts.
8 Revisit to site to determine if court order complied with. Revisit undertaken after the expiry of the court order.
9 Encampment still present, Police notified and bailiffs instructed to remove remaining vehicles and occupiers. Timescales dependant on other parties availability to process.

How do I report an encampment to the council?

You can report an unauthorised encampment online by using the link below.

You will need to tell us:

  • Your contact details
  • When the encampment arrived
  • How many vehicles including caravans are on site
  • Whether there is an impact to the use of the land as a result of the encampment

Or you can call us on 01628 683800 during these hours:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday : 9am-7pm,
  • Wednesdays : 10am-7pm,
  • Saturdays : 9am-5pm,
  • Sundays : 11am-2pm.

What the police do about an encampment

The police have discretionary powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to direct trespassers to leave and remove their property. The exercise of this power is subject to meeting specific criteria, and the Human Rights Act 1998 and Equalities Act 2010 must also be taken into consideration.

When to contact the police