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Gypsies and travellers

Unauthorised camping with caravans has been part of their way of life for centuries and an expression of their cultural identity

Unauthorised encampments 

How many?

  • On average we see three unauthorised encampments a year
  • Some only stay a few days whilst others remain for one or two weeks

What do we do?

Working with our partners, we have well-tested ways of managing these encampments. We do this with due consideration of everyone in the encampment and the rest of the community. 

We ensure that the Human Rights Act, Equality Act, and other related legislation are complied with. We also make enquiries about the general health and welfare of the group and children's education. 

We recognise that these rights need to be balanced with the rights of other residents and visitors to the district to enjoy our open spaces. 

We ensure that if unauthorised encampments are set up, they are managed quickly and efficiently to meet the needs of:

  • those in the encampment 
  • the local community 

In such cases, we make an assessment of the needs of those in the encampment and agree with them a reasonable time when they will move on. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the site is being kept tidy and there are no public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided.

If during the course of their stay, they cause a nuisance or damage the environment, we would take formal action to remove the encampment.

Reporting an unauthorised encampment

We work very closely with the police to manage unauthorised encampments. If you need to report an unauthorised encampment, please do the following:

Unauthorised encampment has already taken place

  • Shepway District Council
  • 01303 858660 Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5.00pm (Wednesday 9.30am) 

Unauthorised development has already taken place

  • Shepway District Council, Planning Control 
  • 01303 853538

Encampment about to take place

  • Kent Police
  • 101

In an emergency, when life is in danger or a crime is in progress

  • Emergency services
  • 999

Removing an encampment 

If there is an encampment on our land we can take action. If it is on private land the landowner has the responsibility to take action.

The government has advised that when unauthorised encampments are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

Council land 

Before we can remove an encampment we must:

  • show that the unauthorised encampment is 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 us to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order those in the encampment to leave the site

How long does this take?

This process may take a while and we have to obtain a court hearing date.

The court can refuse to grant us an order to move the unauthorised encampment on if there is an unavoidable reason to allow them to stay, or if the court believes that we have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of those of those in the encampment.

Private land

The landowner can:

  • 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

If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then we will take proceedings against the landowner to remove the illegal encampment.

If the landowner has planning permission for a caravan site, or they are a farmer and the occupants of the encampment are working on the farm, the encampment is not unauthorised.