There are currently no encampments in Torbay.
Find out how we deal with unauthorised gypsy or traveller sites and how to report an encampment to us.
There are currently no encampments in Torbay.
We will work to remove unauthorised encampments in Torbay and to treat all those involved with dignity and respect. We also expect this in return and will not tolerate violent, aggressive or inappropriate behaviour towards our staff.
An unauthorised encampment is one where Gypsies and/or other Travellers camp on land that they do not own, and without the owner’s permission. An unauthorised encampment is not a criminal offence.
Where we act to remove an unauthorised encampment we do so as the land owner, and there is not a statutory duty for us to act. We have no powers to intervene if the encampment is on private land.
When we receive your complaint it is unlikely that the encampment will be removed immediately. This is because our work has to follow the law and a process which takes time.
We can only take action if an encampment is on our land. We have no legal powers over privately owned land. For an illegal encampment on our land we will:
Please note that this is a guideline only and dates may slip due to unforeseen circumstances, availability of partner agencies, court availability, weekends and bank holidays.
We always work with local police when managing unauthorised encampments. If there is evidence of criminal damage or any other criminal behaviour on a site, then the police will take action. If you have concerns about a crime being committed or serious anti-social behaviour then please contact the police to make sure the matter is logged.
We have no evidence that crime and disorder within an area increases when Gypsies and Travellers are camped nearby.
This will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. We will need to take account of all of the issues outlined above as well as how soon we can get a court hearing date. Generally it will take around 2 working weeks to go through the process.
Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules permits us to issue proceedings against persons unknown and once an order is obtained, it can be used to prevent those same persons from returning to the same site for approximately 6 months. Therefore if there are any new additions to the encampment once proceedings have been served, they become subject to the same proceedings.
The use of Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules is widely used by local authorities.
We keep under review its management of unauthorised encampments, in doing so Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules continues to be the most cost effective, reliable and expedient route in managing such encampments on Council owned land.
The use of Part 55 Civil Procedure Rules is generally known and understood by those who local authorities seek possession against and tends to result in land being vacated once proceedings have been issued.
Demonstrates compliance by us of our obligations and commitment to undertake necessary health and welfare checks and seeks to preclude any subsequent legal challenge in this regard, as we and the Court are public bodies which must determine that its decisions are proportionate.
This is generally not true. Sometimes groups of travellers move off quickly of their own accord.
As detailed above, it is possible for an authority to ask the Court to use its general powers of case management.
In our experience, the average time is between 7 and 10 days. However, we are dependent upon the Courts availability for a hearing date. If unauthorised occupants refuse to vacate the land, we are then reliant on the availability of the County Court Bailiff’s to enforce an order by carrying out the eviction.
It is important to note that we are also reliant on the availability of partner agencies to undertake health and welfare checks. Over time we have established an excellent working relationship with our partner agencies and in doing so, our requests for these checks to be undertaken are carried out expeditiously. In our experience, health and welfare checks are usually carried out within 3 and 5 days.
Government guidance states that it is good practice to allow some toleration for short periods in locations where the encampment does not have any adverse impact on the settled community. We follow this guidance on each and every unauthorised encampment. The ODPM Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Camping (2004) indicates that local authorities should not use their common law powers to evict unauthorised encampments but should, instead, use eviction procedures which involve court action.
There are a range of legal options available to us, but generally these are not appropriate for the types of unauthroised encampments experienced in Torbay.
We have sought Counsel’s advice on whether the power of applying for a pre-emptive injunction would be applicable to unauthorised encampments. This is only appropriate if known individuals are present in the encampment and their presence is known is advance. A Pre-emptive Injunction can only really be used where the defendant is in situ and deliberately or flagrantly flouting the law before an injunction will be granted. A Court is unlikely to make an order for a pre-emptive injunction where the land is not currently occupied, as this is a discretionary remedy, without the persons directly affected by the order having an opportunity to object.
It is our opinion that a pre-emptive injunction is not cost effective, as the injunction would only be drawn to the attention of an unauthorised encampment once they are in situ. Once on Council owned land, we must comply with its obligations, as outlined above.
If we were mindful to make such an application and it was not defended, the cost estimate in doing so is about £5,000. If however, the matter became fully contested then we estimate the costs to each party to be in the region of £20,000, if not more.
Therefore applying for a permanent injunction would not put us in any materially better position than it is at the moment and would not be a proportionate use of our resources.
Torbay has Byelaws in place which prohibit overnight camping and the parking of vehicles onsome open spaces in Torbay. Whilst this may appear to be a solution to remove unauthorised encampments, there are a number of considerations before this power can be utilised:
Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO)
The use of a PSPO is a discretionary power we have. The purpose of a PSPO is to remedy actual anti-social behaviour or prevent recurrence but should not be used to restrict access to land. General unauthorised encampments do not result in anti-social behavior occurring or being reported. Where such occurrences do arise, these are dealt with by the Police or the local authority. A PSPO cannot be used to restrict access to an area by a minority group who are identified as having defined characteristics under equalities legislation eg are part of the gypsy or travelling community.
Assuming a PSPO was put in place, a breach of the PSPO would not result in the removal of that encampment. Instead enforcement of the PSPO would be by way of a Penalty Notice or prosecution through the Magistrates’ Court where the Court is likely to impose a fine. The unauthorised encampment would however remain in situ.
As landowner, we will consider each case of an unauthorised encampment on its own merits. In doing so, it will have regard to the settled community, government guidance on managing such encampmants, relevant case law, the Human Rights Act and the best interest of the child as mandated as a primary consideration (please note that this list is not exhaustive).
In the absence of a transit or permanent site in Torbay, we will ensure that a prompt assessment of the encampment is made with relevant partner agencies. However, it must be noted that an unauthorised encampment is not a criminal offence and any action to remove such an encampment is not a statutory duty.
Any action taken by us in this regard will be based on necessity, proportionality and prioritised against other mandatory demands for service.
Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules continues to be the most appropriate legal remedy to obtain possession of Council owned land. However, there may be circumstances where other powers are considered appropriate and proportionate. Where this is the case, we will seek to follow that course of action.