Unauthorised Encampments

Unauthorised encampments in the district are not uncommon. The Council has a protocol in place for dealing with such encampments and will always take prompt action when the encampment is on Council owned land.

The following explains a little more about the process we go through.

If the encampment is on public open space in the Ashfield District, then please report it to the Council by telephoning 01623 457345.

No, the Council must:

  • Show that the occupiers are on land without consent
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
  • Ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with
  • Follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of the land, details of the illegal encampment, service of notices and summonses that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the unauthorised occupiers to leave the site.

The Government has issued a summary guide to the powers available for '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.

No. It is illegal to stop entry/exit following initial occupation. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. If an encampment has been set up without permission, the council and/or police must follow the legislation and guidelines and seek eviction through the Courts if necessary.

The Council will always seek to move on an encampment as quickly as possible but how long it takes will depends on the circumstances of the case and the action the Council is required to take.

The Council will try and negotiate with the occupants to move on as quickly as possible. Alongside this the Council will take legal action through the Courts so that we are in a position to forcibly move on the encampment if needed.

If we have to take action through the Court it can take 7-10 days to move the encampment on.

Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the occupiers to stay on the site or if the court believes that the council has failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the occupiers. The council must try to find out this information before going to court.

If unauthorised occupiers enter private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility to take the necessary action to evict them. The Council will assist the landowner but the process of recovering possession of the land and how long this takes rests with the landowner.

The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the occupants or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction.

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 the occupants are trespassing on the land. 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 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 to avoid using Section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

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. So 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.

Breaking in and damaging property are criminal offences which are investigated by the police. They will be subject to sufficient evidence and witness statements. Witnesses would be required make a statement to the Courts confirming that they can identify the person(s) who caused the damage.

If you see any criminal activity being carried out by any member of the public, please report it to the police by phoning 101.

We will ask occupiers to be more considerate of local residents and this is usually effective. However, reports of noise nuisance will be investigated by the Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team and if appropriate, used as part of the application for a Court Order for eviction.

We regularly visit unauthorised encampments on Council land. We provide practical advice to ensure that every effort is made to try to keep the site tidy.

The tidiness of a site may determine how quickly we proceed to Court to get an Order. The Council's Waste and Environment Team always ensure that waste and litter is removed from Council land after the encampment has moved on.

Private landowners are responsible for the removal of waste from their land.