Unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments – advice for residents

Legislation protecting the rights of Gypsies and Travellers

As with any other individual, all gypsies and travellers have rights under the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are also protected against discrimination on the basis of their ethnic origins under the 2010 Equalities Act.

What happens when Gypsies and Travellers visit the area?

Gypsies and Travellers will visit the area for a number of reasons, which include looking for employment, seasonal holiday travel, and to visit relatives.

We receive information quickly from a number of sources when Gypsies and Travellers are in the area. Working with Sussex Police, other agencies and the Gypsies/Travellers themselves, we seek to minimize disruption to residents during such a visit.

Where cases of unauthorised camping are identified, each case is taken on its own merit following Government guidelines.

Who is responsible for taking action against unauthorised encampments?

An unauthorised encampment is defined as a group of people with vehicles who are trespassing on land with the intention of residing there without the owner’s consent. Trespass is a civil matter and not a criminal offence.

If the encampment is on private land, then the responsibility will be with the landowner. They will be expected to deal with the matter according to civil law.

West Sussex County Council acts on behalf District and Borough Councils in West Sussex in dealing with unauthorised encampments on Council land.

Sussex Police works closely with local authority partners and other agencies to balance the needs of both settled and travelling communities. They will take action if criminal activity, public disorder or disruption to the local community can been established.

What we must do to remove unauthorised encampments on Council land

We cannot remove unauthorised encampments from our own land immediately, but must act accordingly to national legislation and guidelines by:

  • Showing that the Gypsies/Travellers are on the land without consent
  • Making enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the group and children's education
  • Ensuring that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with
  • Following a set procedure which involves proving ownership of the land, giving details of the illegal encampment, serving notices and summonses in order to successfully obtain a court order to evict the travellers from the site

This work is done on our behalf by West Sussex County Council.

Encampments on council land have to be dealt with as a civil matter. The police will only act if there is disruption to the local community.

Police powers

The Police have powers to move unauthorised encampments off land where criminal activities by Gypsies/Travellers can be established. However, crime has to be proven in the same way, as that committed by any individual has to be proven.

The Police can use powers to remove trespassers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 where there is a significant impact to the local community or other users of the land, a significant impact upon the land or a risk to life posed by the site.

The landowner should take reasonable steps to ask the trespassers to leave before police powers can be used. The police will not normally be expected to use eviction powers where there is an unauthorised encampment without the above factors. Relevant Human Rights processes are used in all decisions made.

What to do if you have any concerns

Local community social media sites are not routinely monitored by us and the police. You will not receive an official response or action by reporting it through these channels.

How to report concerns

Permanent Gypsy and Traveller sites in Mid Sussex

There are currently local authority sites in the following locations in Mid Sussex:

  • Bedelands, Burgess Hill
  • Fairplace Hill Caravan Site, Burgess Hill
  • Walstead Caravan Site, Lindfield
  • Horsgate caravan Site, Cuckfield

The sites are managed by West Sussex County Council, except for Bedelands which is currently managed by Mid Sussex District Council.

Our assessments show that we need more pitches in Mid Sussex and we are working to increase provision – see Traveller Sites Allocation Documents.

Contact us

Tel: 01444-477254
Email:  travellers@midsussex.gov.uk

Last updated: 31 May 2019