Current encampments

We have 0 reported cases of Unauthorised Encampments within the Bay.

We work with SWISCo and Able Enforcement Ltd to remove unauthorised encampments in Torbay. We will do this as quickly and efficiently as possible. We take into account the needs and rights of both the local residents and the community. We also take into account the legal obligations we have.

We treat all those involved with dignity and respect. We expect this in return. We will not tolerate violent, aggressive or inappropriate behaviour towards our staff.

An unauthorised encampment is when people camp without permission on land that they do not own. This may include:

  • Van dwellers

  • Tent dwellers

  • Gypsy, travellers or roma -these include the new age travelling community

Trespass alone is a matter of civil law. This means that the police have no power to arrest the trespassers for it. Police may offer guidance and help landowners remove trespassers from land.

Where we act to remove an unauthorised encampment we do so as the land owner. There is no statutory duty for us to act. We have no powers to intervene if the encampment is on private land.

Reporting an encampment

We usually become aware of encampments very quickly. Please check the current encampments to see what has already been reported. 

If the encampment is on private land, we are unable to take action.

If you want to report an encampment use the online form and we will log the details. You will not get a response but be assured we are acting on your information.

   Report an unauthorised encampment

When we get your report it is unlikely that the encampment will be removed immediately. This is because we have to follow a legal process. We will do with speed and efficiency.

What we will do

Day 1 - Unauthorised encampment is reported and confirmed

Day 2 to 3 – Site Assessment by our partnering Enforcement Agents

This will be done as soon as possible by appropriate officers. This depends on the day and time of arrival. As part of the legal process we have to include a welfare assessment. We must then make sure we alert the relevant departments and agencies if there is a need identified. After this we then consider if these enquiries have:

  • revealed circumstances which need further examination, or

  • show that the eviction should be postponed

Day 3 - Section 77 Notice served to occupants instructing land be immediately vacated.

We will serve the occupants a notice under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This is if no issues have been identified in the welfare assessment. The occupants must then leave the land immediately. The notice also makes them aware that if they fail to vacate the land we will take further action.

We will also give occupants of unauthorised encampment a code of conduct notice. This states the behaviours we expect until the land is vacated.

Other considerations in managing such an encampment will include:

  • tolerance
  • relevant case law
  • the Human Rights Act
  • the best interest of any children on site which are mandated as a primary consideration

Day 4 - Preparation of Court papers and application for an urgent Court hearing

If we make the decision to seek possession of the land we will request an urgent Court hearing for the eviction of Persons Unknown. This falls under section 77 and section 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. We will prepare all required papers, including a Magistrates Court Order for signing by the judge, and send them to the Court.

We have no influence over the Court schedule. We make every effort to get the hearing as soon as possible but it is up-to the Court to provide the hearing date.

Day 4 - Court Summons served on unauthorised encampment

Once we have a date and time for the Court hearing we serve a summons. This is served on all persons and vehicles/caravans on site and posted at the entrance/s to the site.

Day 5 to 10  - Attend the Court hearing

An Enforcement Officer will attend the Court to provide evidence as required.

Day 5 to 10 - Serve Section 78 Eviction Notice 

If the Court grants a Section 78 Notice it will be served on all persons and vehicles/caravans on site and be posted at the entrance/s to the site. It gives the occupants 24hrs to leave the site.

If the Court does not grant a Section 78 Notice the relevant issues will be resolved and a further Court date will be requested

Day 6 to 11 - Eviction

If the occupants fail to leave the site after the 24hr notice period then Enforcement Officers will attend. They will carry out an eviction in line with the Magistrates Order.

Once the site is vacated it will be litter picked and cleaned as required. We will secure the site until permanent repairs or installation can be arranged.

Day 7 to 12 - Review Meeting

Following every unauthorised encampment a full review including all staff involved will be undertaken. This will help to identify lessons learnt which we can learn from in future actions.

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

Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

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.

Use of Pre-emptive injunctions

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.

Enforcement of Existing Byelaws on Churston Common

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:

  1. Our current Byelaw in this regard came in to force before the Human Rights Act. Therefore our obligations to carry out health and welfare checks would still need to be undertaken.  This process would take between 3 and 5 days, as detailed above.
  2. To enforce such a Byelaw, we would need to employ security staff, bailiffs, towing equipment etc, and have the Police present to prevent a breach of the peace. Dependant on availability, the cost of this would likely be prohibitive and will not be a swift process to arrange.  It is likely to result in public disorder and traffic congestion whilst caravans were towed onto the adjacent highway.  Even if this was effective, there is nothing to stop the aggrieved encampment moving back on to the same site or to another location within Torbay, where further procedures would have to be invoked.

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.

Section 77 is part of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA)  that gives local authorities the power to direct individuals to remove their vehicles and belongings and to leave highway land, or any land occupied without the consent of the landowner, whether owned by the local authority itself or by any other public or private landowner.