Gypsy and traveller scrutiny
One of our aims is to "increase understanding and develop a new approach for our Gypsy community"
We are a member of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Partnership and are working with other local organisations and the Gypsy and Traveller community to understand the needs of that community and to achieve the aims highlighted by the partnership.
1. Better relationships between the Council and local Gypsy and Traveller communities, specifically;
- Consultation and communication mechanisms
- A protocol setting out what you can expect from us and what we can expect from you, summarising the roles we play, key contacts and partners.
2. Breaking down barriers and building understanding between settled residents and the local Gypsy communities, specifically;
- Understanding the tensions that exist and why
- Production of a video by Rural Media in order to further inform the community of the culture and history surrounding the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.
3. Balancing supply of sites and demand for the future – helping to inform the planning process, specifically;
- Pre-application engagement and advice
- Proper enforcement
- If requirements for new sites arise, setting out the principles that will need to be applied
You can learn more about the real culture and myths surrounding Gypsy and Traveller communities by reading Jake Bowers article on The Traveller's Times website.
Travellers in Worcestershire are made up of three main groups:
- Gypsy or Romany
- Irish Travellers
- New Travellers
These groups live in a variety of settings.
Estimates of the size of the community vary, but historically Gypsies and Travellers have been the largest minority ethnic group within Worcestershire. It should be noted that only Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers fall within the definition of a "Minority Ethnic Group".
Gypsies and Travellers have always been part of Worcestershire and have been crucial in the development of the county. For example, Travellers were the first "seasonal workers", helping to develop the economic success of the county. Over recent years many of the traditional stopping places for the Travelling community have diminished causing difficulties for Gypsies and Travellers seeking a place to stay. This is one of the key reasons why many of the Travelling community in Worcestershire now live in houses.
However there is more to Gypsy/Traveller culture than travelling itself, and this is maintained through traditions such as the language (Romany). There are a number of groups/agencies working with Gypsies and Travellers in Worcestershire. Some are listed below:
- West Mercia Police – Gypsy and Traveller Liaison
- Worcestershire's Children's service for Gypsy Roma Traveller
- Rooftop Housing Group
- WGRTP – The Worcestershire Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Partnership which is made up of a number of public sector organisations based within Worcestershire.
Everyone has rights, including travellers/gypsies and people on whose land unauthorised camping takes place.
Gypsies and travellers are protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values.
The aim of this information is to set out how we and other official agencies will work to try to balance the rights of all those involved.
Why do gypsies/travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?
Their way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods of time in different locations, in order to earn a living. This has been their way of life for many generations.
Does the council have a duty to move gypsies/travellers when they are camped without the landowner’s permission?
No. If gypsies/travellers are camped on council land, the council can evict them.
If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner’s responsibility. The Government has advised that when gypsies/travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.
If gypsies/travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?
Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.
Take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing.
What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?
Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the gypsies/travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites. You may wish to seek further advice from the council Environmental Health section or Planning Department who deal with illegal encampments and unauthorised use of land.
If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the gypsies/travellers, what will the council do?
If the landowner is in breach of any planning or license requirements, then the council will take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.
I have seen gypsies/travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other council-owned land, what can the council do in these cases?
If the gypsies/travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. We will consider each case on its merits. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the gypsies/travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.
Can the council remove gypsies/travellers from their land immediately?
No, we must:
- show that the gypsies/travellers are on the land without consent;
- make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children’s education;
- ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with;
- follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the gypsies/travellers to leave the site.
What happens if the gypsies/travellers have moved onto land which they have bought?
The gypsies/travellers would then enjoy the same rights under the Planning Legislation as anyone else. They would be entitled to submit a planning application, lodge an appeal if planning permission is refused and, under certain circumstances take the issue to the High Court.
Councils do have enforcement powers to deal with any unauthorised use of land, but again the enforcement procedures allow a right of Appeal. The Human Rights Act is again a consideration when dealing with the use of land by gypsies/travellers.
Our Enforcement Section should be alerted as soon as possible if there is evidence of any unauthorised use commencing.
How long will it take for the gypsies/travellers to be removed?
This will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. We will need to take account of the issues outlined above as well as how soon they can obtain a Court hearing date.
Can the court refuse to grant the council an order to move gypsies/travellers on?
Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the gypsies/travellers to stay on the site, or if the court believes that the council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the gypsies/travellers. The council must try to find out this information before going to Court.
What can the Police do?
The Police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example, where the gypsies/travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers 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 trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor.
The Police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.
The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the Police. The Police will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences.