Occasionally there are unauthorised encampments within Craven. Here are some frequently asked questions that explains what action can be taken and what powers councils and the police have in relation to illegal encampments. Councils and police have powers to evict unlawful trespassers but must follow specific procedures if they are to successfully obtain an eviction order from the courts.
Does the Council have a duty to move gypsies / travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission?
No. If gypsies/travellers are camped on Council land, the Council can evict them. If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility. If travellers are camped on or at the side of a road, it is the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council
If gypsies / travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?
Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed. Ask why they are there, and how long they are hoping to stay, and assess if they are causing a disturbance. If you feel negotiations are not going well, leave discussion be for the time being and seek advice from your solicitor. You will need to apply to court for an eviction.
What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?
Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the gypsies/travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites. You may wish to seek further advice from the Council's Environmental Health team who have powers of enforcement and will initially deal with illegal encampments.
What can the police do?
Trespass on private land is not a criminal offence, so the removal of trespassers is the responsibility of the landowner. However, the police can get involved if there is a criminal offence committed or public disorder. The police will visit the site and in certain circumstances may decide to use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the occupation of the land is a relevant factor.
The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.
How long will it take for the gypsies / travellers to be removed from Council land?
This will depend on the circumstance of each case. In all cases the Council has to apply to court for an eviction date and if there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies / Travellers to stay on the site or if the court believes that the council has failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies / Travellers they can refuse to grant an eviction.