Managing unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments
Historically, Central Bedfordshire has experienced a high number of unauthorised encampments that have had a disproportionate impact on our communities.
Over the past 2 years, there has been a significant reduction in the number and size of encampments, which we believe has been caused by the uncertainty of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the encampment is on privately owned land, it is the responsibility of the landowner to take any eviction action. In this situation, our officers will assist and advise the landowners of their options to resolve the situation.
When an encampment is reported to us, we will conduct an extensive assessment and establish ownership of the land affected. We work with Bedfordshire Police in determining the most appropriate action for the management of the encampment. This takes into consideration the recent changes to legislation for how unauthorised encampments are managed.
If the encampment is on our land, we will decide whether eviction is necessary.
In making the decision to evict, we balance the health, welfare and educational needs of those on the encampment with the impact the encampment is having on the local community of the area affected.
Should there be any needs identified requiring assistance, they will either be signposted to the relevant support or formally referred by our officers.
This may result in a delay of the eviction process; in which case the encampment will be managed in situ by our officers.
All decisions will have regard to the Human Rights Act and our public equality duty.
If the decision is to evict, then a legal process is commenced, which can take between 7 to 10 days from decision to eviction, depending on the fall of weekends and availability for a court hearing.
If eviction action is urgently required and the criteria is satisfied, we will request the Police to evict on our behalf.
Where areas we own have been camped on, we will explore all options to protect it from being camped on again.
If the land concerned is not owned by us, we will advise the landowners of their options to secure it from further encampments.
Injunctions can be useful where unauthorised encampments keep occurring in the same locations that cannot be protected or where certain families continually cause significant problems for the communities they choose to camp near.
We have successfully used this process in recent years and will consider its use if all other options have been exhausted.