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Gypsies, Travellers and the law

Everyone has rights, including Gypsies, Travellers and people on whose land unauthorised camping takes place.

Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language and values, including white and black people.

The aim of this page is to set out how local authorities and official agencies will try and balance the rights of all of those involved.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:

Why do Gypsies/Travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?

Their way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods in different locations in order to earn a living. In most cases it has been a way of life for generations.

Do you have a duty to move Gypsies/Travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission on private land?

No. If Travellers are camped on our land, we can evict them. If they are on private land, usually it is 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 my land what can I do?

  1. Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed.

  2. Take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules, 1998. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing. To contact the County Court, tel: 01332 622600 or seek the help of a solicitor.

What if I decide to let them stay on my land temporarily?

Unless you have already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or you are a farmer and they are helping you with, for example fruit picking, then you could be in breach of the Planning Acts.

You may wish to seek further advice from the Planning Department.

I have seen Gypsies/Travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other council-owned land. What can you do in these cases?

If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is reasonable.

We'll consider each case on its merits.

In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to try and make sure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems.

This sometimes means that a portable toilet and refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.

If the council want to, can they force Gypsies/Travellers to move immediately?

No. Because we must:

  • Be able to show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on land without consent.
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers.
  • Go through relevant steps in terms of serving notices and follow due processes in the courts to gain the necessary authority to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site.

Can the court refuse to grant the council an order to move the Gypsies/Travellers on?

Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site, or if the court thinks we have not made adequate enquiries regarding general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers.

We 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 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 not be used as a matter of routine.

The section gives the police powers to act but officers can choose whether to use them or not.

Each case will be looked at on its merits having regard to the safety of the community and taking into consideration any aggravating factors of crime or disorder.

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 is the responsibility of the landowner not the police.

The police will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences.

Useful contacts

For sites on district or borough land please call:

  • Amber Valley Borough Council: 01773 570222
  • Erewash Borough Council: 0115 9072244
  • High Peak Borough Council: 01298 28400
  • Derbyshire Dales District Council: 01629 761100
  • Chesterfield Borough Council: 01246 345345
  • District of Bolsover: 01246 240000
  • North East Derbyshire District Council: 01246 231111
  • South Derbyshire District Council: 01283 221000

Contact Pete Shimwell, tel: 01629 538466 for sites on the public highway or on our land.

We have the following residential sites:

  • Lullington Cross Roads
  • Coton in the Elms - managed by South Derbyshire District Council
  • Corbriggs, Hasland, Chesterfield - leased out to Mr Jim Burnside, Woodyard Lane at Foston and managed by South Derbyshire District Council

If the traveller site is on private land the land owner must deal with this.

The police will call at all unauthorised sites - you can call the Derbyshire Police Call Centre, tel: 101.