The Council is now working with the Essex Countywide Traveller Unit (ECTU) to deal with issues caused by unauthorised encampments on Council and Parish Council land, in consultation with Essex Police.
Where people are residing in vehicles (including caravans) on land, section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives local authorities in England and Wales power to give a direction to leave the land.
If the encampment is on Council land this action will usually be taken, following an assessment of the site and appropriate welfare checks which have to be undertaken.
Dealing with an unauthorised gypsy or traveller encampment on Council land
ECTU will normally visit a site on the same day (or the first working day) after receiving a report. The process below gives a guide to the likely timescales involved to take legal action to deal with a site:
- Day 1
- visit the site to confirm location, numbers and intention
- find out who owns the land - Council or privately owned?
- carry out assessments and welfare checks
- Day 1-2 - Issue a direction to leave the site within a reasonable period (usually less than 24 hours)
- Day 3 - If the direction is not followed then ECTU will apply to Magistrates' Court for a hearing date
- Day 3-4 - Summons served to attend Court when notified of the hearing date (24 hours notice must be given)
- Day 5-6 - Attend the Court to request a Court Order for eviction
- Day 6 - Serve the Court Order with notice of enforcement
- Day 7 - Call in bailiffs to enforce removal if the encampment is still present
Where an encampment is on private land we will liaise with the landowner and Essex Police to ensure that any impact on local communities and the environment is kept to a minimum whilst the encampment is present.
Options available to private landowners include proceedings for possession of land through the County Courts and the use of private bailiffs to secure land and remove trespassers.
Further information on powers and options available is contained in the Government publication 'Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments', which can be obtained from the link below:
More information is on the Essex County Council website at http://www.essex.gov.uk/Environment%20Planning/Environment/local-environment/Gypsy-Traveller-Services/Pages/Unauthorised-sites.aspx