Tackling unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments
Following a significant number of unauthorised encampments in 2016 and 2017, we have taken a two-fold strategic approach to tackling unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments: to protect land; and improve eviction and enforcement.
Over the last year, we have undertaken preventative work at fifteen different council-owned Gypsy and Traveller sites that have been vulnerable to encampments previously. Preventative measures included installing height barriers, bunding, ditches and strengthening gates.
We’ve also been advising private landowners on suitable measures to make to protect their land. We have been liaising with Highways England to strengthen their prevention measures at Junction 12 of the M1. This site now has concrete blocks in front and behind the gates.
So far, the preventative work has resulted in a 55% reduction of encampments on council-owned land, and a 26% reduction across all land in Central Bedfordshire (based on figures from 1 January to 1 October 2017 compared to 2018).
We employ a full-time, dedicated Gypsy and Traveller Unauthorised Encampment Officer. This officer responds to reports of unauthorised encampments so that there are no delays in the process, and ensures better coordination with the health visitor service, police and neighbouring local authorities.
The legal process for us to evict unauthorised encampments takes around ten working days to complete. We have to follow national processes. We’d like to see current legislation changed in two ways:
- speed up the process so we can evict more quickly
- strengthen the restrictions to stop any travellers returning to a wider area, not just a certain group.
We, along with the local MPs, have been raising this issue with the relevant minister. Following on, the government recently undertook a consultation, asking for suggestions for how the legislation could be changed. We responded with our views. Meanwhile, we continue to work with local MPs to push for changes in the legislation.
In some areas, it is difficult to block access against unauthorised encampments. For this reason, we have been granted an injunction by the High Court to protect these areas (under Section 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014).
The injunction, which begins on 5 October 2018 and lasts for two years, bans eleven named individuals from setting up unauthorised encampments anywhere in Central Bedfordshire.
The injunction also stops any unauthorised encampments on specific parcels of land in Ridgmont, Husborne Crawley, Brogborough, Salford, Lidlington, Marston Moretaine, Lower Shelton and Wootton.
The injunction covers specific parcels of land at the following sites:
- cricket pavilion in Marston Moretaine
- long verge on former A421 near to Wood End, Marston Moretaine
- verge on one-way section of Woburn Rd, Marston Moretaine
- Marston Moretaine village green
- Hoo Lane, Wootton Green (Marston Parish)
- bridleway and nature reserve, Ridgmont
- The Old Salford Road, Brogborough (two sites)
- verge on former A421 by Lidlington lake
- verges at junction of A4012 Mill Rd and Station Rd, Ridgmont
- land off A507 Stotfold
- land off former A421 at Lidlington
- Highways England land off Wood End
- land off former A421 between Brogborough and Marston Moretaine
- Highways England land off Lower Shelton Road, Marston Moretaine
- Rose and Crown Public House, Ridgmont
The injunction will help by acting as a further deterrent. Anyone who breaks the injunction faces the threat of arrest if they do not leave a site immediately when asked to.
You can download a full copy of the injunction (PDF 2MB) .