Unauthorised encampments on council owned land

Salford City Council does not accept unauthorised encampments on council-owned land or on public highways.

In certain circumstances the council is responsible for enforcement of eviction powers.

Details of encampments in the city

  • There are no current encampments

If you wish to report a new location or address of an encampment which you suspect may be there without the permission of the council or landowner please notify us. If the location is already listed above then you do not need to report it as we are already aware and will provide further progress updates.

Report an unauthorised encampment

Frequently asked questions

What rights do people have?

Everyone has rights, including travellers, the local community and the people who own the land where an unauthorised encampment is located. Ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values, are protected from discrimination by the Equalities Act 2010.

The decision to adopt a travelling lifestyle where housing need is met through living within a vehicle either on a long or short-term basis is made by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons. It is therefore important that travellers are not denied the right to mainstream services that the council provides.

Can the council remove unauthorised encampments from land which they own immediately?

No, the council must:

  • show that the travellers are on land without consent
  • make enquiries regarding general health, welfare and children's education
  • ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with

To do this, the council follows a set procedure based on Government guidance which involves proving ownership of the land, obtaining details of the encampment, assessing an encampment’s effects on the local area, serving notices and summonses that will enable necessary authority to be obtained from the courts to order the travellers to leave the site.

The Government has issued a summary guide to the powers available 'Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments'.

Unauthorised camping is not a criminal offence. Trespass is a civil offence, giving landowners and local authorities the right to repossess their property using the due process of law.

How long will it take for the unauthorised encampment to be moved on?

This will depend on the circumstances of each case. The council will need to take account of the issues outlined above.

We try to operate a balanced approach as suggested by case law and government guidelines. Whenever an unauthorised encampment occurs, a welfare visit will be undertaken to make an assessment of the situation. It is in everyone's interest to agree a leaving date with those camped on the site, as they get a period of stability and the council saves the not inconsiderable costs of eviction and clear up.

If and when we decide to take legal action there are still procedures to be followed. Public bodies like local councils (but not private landowners) must consider the welfare of all those at an unauthorised encampment. As a result we carry out needs and welfare checks to discover if any of people present need to access council services or require medical assistance. We then put our case together and apply for a court date in either the Magistrates or County Court. Assuming that we are granted an Eviction Order or a Possession Order, we then notify the travellers it has been granted then either council officers will enforce it or an application is made for a Warrant to be enforced by Court Bailiffs. It is impossible to provide a time estimate for this process but obviously it is not an instant remedy.

Can the courts refuse to grant the council an order to move unauthorised encampments on?

Yes If they are not satisfied that persons and vehicles are present on land within a council’s area in contravention of a direction given by the council requiring the removal of any vehicle on the land and any person residing in it.

If travellers park on private land, what can the landowner do?

If travellers enter private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility to take the necessary action to evict them. The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the travellers or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction.

If the landowner fails to take action to remove the travellers what will the council do?

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site the landowner may be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites. If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then the council may take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

What are the responsibilities of the Police in this type of situation?

The lead agency in the removal of an unauthorised encampment will almost always be the council. The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. The police will visit the site and in certain circumstances may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 if they consider it appropriate. These powers are discretionary and will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the occupation of the land is a relevant factor. It is for the police alone to decide if Section 61 is to be utilised.

The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained in the use of Section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

Where there is an alternative public site with sufficient pitches available, the Police may use powers under Section 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to move trespassers onto this site. This power can only be used to direct travellers onto a site within the same local authority area. The National Police Chiefs’ Council have recently issued revised advice to police forces. Guidance is available on the National Police Chiefs' Council website

Is it a criminal offence if people break in and damage property?

Breaking in and damaging property are separate offences to trespass. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibility of the landowner and not the police.

If the police were able to attribute any damage to one or more individuals they could be prosecuted through the courts but their punishment would not be eviction of the whole encampment. This is because British Law only punishes the wrongdoer, not their family, friends, or the whole community. Also, under human rights legislation, punishment must be proportionate. While a person could be fined or imprisoned for criminal damage, it would not be reasonable to impound their home, prevent their legal employment or disrupt the education of their children.

What about vehicle checks?

The police do take details of vehicles which are part of a new encampment and travellers are prosecuted as and when appropriate. The police will stop any dangerous vehicles as they move between sites and have them removed from the highway but if an eviction is to be successful arrangements have to be made to allow them to move on which includes having sufficient vehicles available to tow the caravans present on site.

Why aren't more physical barriers installed to prevent trespassers?

There are considerations to be taken into account when designing protective measures. They have to be economic and they have to take account of the other uses of a site. For example, boulders or knee rails can be installed on highway verges but the mowing and maintenance of these areas becomes more difficult and expensive because of the presence of the obstructions.

Can't unauthorised encampments be prevented by better liaison between neighbouring councils and the police?

We do work together and pass information on when we have it. Large-scale encampments are very rare, and need special treatment; however most encampments in Salford are 10 vehicles or fewer.

Are groups treated differently if say, they parked a caravan on an industrial estate?

No - they are all treated the same. However, there are differences between the way in which the settled and travelling communities choose to live. The majority of us have houses to go back to whereas travellers' vehicles may be their only homes and the source of their livelihood. Councils need to consider carefully whether to take legal action, not just for reasons of Human Rights and common humanity but also considering economic and logistical problems.

Should the law be changed to make it easier to move Travellers on?

The Government has recently reminded local authorities of the powers available to move Travellers. See above "Can the council remove travellers from land which they own immediately?"

Along with the Government, we recognise that travellers are human beings and that they need to be somewhere. Travelling as a way of life cannot be prohibited however uncomfortable the fit with the settled community. The police have powers available to them but these powers have to be used with consideration and a care for the consequences.

This page was last updated on 17 July 2024

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