Pitches on council sites

Many local councils provide permanent or transit sites for Gypsies/Travellers. 

Council sites for Gypsies and Travellers

Councils in England provide around 5,000 pitches for Gypsies/Travellers across several hundred sites.

Most council sites are open all year round. Some councils offer transit sites, some on a seasonal basis to deal with an increased need for pitches during the summer. The sizes of these sites vary.

Councils don't have a legal duty to provide sites. 

Council site facilities

Facilities on sites vary as there are no specific standards for sites.

Site facilities may include:

  • hard standing for a caravan
  • space to park cars or other vehicles
  • space for a second caravan to provide additional accommodation for your household, or guests
  • toilets
  • showers and/or baths
  • some storage space
  • an area for preparing and cooking food
  • a secure mailbox

Sites might also have extra facilities such as meeting rooms or children's play areas and access to education and health services. For example a health visitor or teacher may call at the site

Not all facilities are accessible for disabled people.

Apply for a pitch on a council site

To apply for a place on a council site, you should complete an application form. These are usually available from the council's housing department or from the site office.

You can't move onto a council site without permission.

The council should keep a waiting list if their sites are full. The council must have a clear policy on how it allocates site pitches and who gets priority. 

Contact the council to find out how their application process works and how pitches are allocated in the area.

The council may refuse your application if, for example, you have:

  • rent arrears from a previous stay on a council site
  • had problems with a tenancy on a council site in the past, for example due to antisocial behaviour

Get advice if you're in this situation. Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser near you.

Occupancy rights on a council site

You have certain legal rights regardless of where your site is. Other rights may vary depending on whether it is a permanent or transit site and on the agreement you have with the council. 

When you move onto the site, the council must give you an occupancy agreement in writing, which you must sign.

Occupancy agreements vary between councils, but in general they should set out:

  • contact details for the site manager and warden and a list of the things they're responsible for
  • details of the pitch fees and any other charges 
  • site rules, for example, about visitors, pets, antisocial behaviour and use of the facilities
  • what to do if any part of the site needs repair work
  • how to complain 
  • the notice you must give if you want to leave

The occupancy agreement should be available in accessible formats, such as braille or on tape. The site manager or the council's Gypsy/Traveller liaison officer should go over the agreement with you also. Ask them to explain any details which are not clear.

Get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice or another local advice service if you're unsure about anything.

Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser near you.

Rent arrears 

If you don't pay your rent, the council can start court action to evict you from the pitch because of your rent arrears.

Get advice if you fall behind with your rent. Use Shelter's directory to find a local adviser. They may be able to help you apply for backdated benefits or arrange a payment plan with the council.

If you move on from a council site without paying your arrears, the council may not let you move back later. You may also find it hard to get a place on another council site.

Eviction from a council site

The council must first get a court order if it wants to evict you from a permanent site. The rules for evicting you are the same as for other owners of mobile homes living on permanent sites.

Find out more about mobile home owners.

Pitch fees 

You can claim housing benefit to help pay all or some of your pitch fee.

Council tax 

Residents on council sites are expected to pay council tax.

Depending on your income you may be entitled to council tax support to help you pay some or all of the council tax.

Time limits for stays 

There is no time limit to your stay on the site, unless you are on a temporary transit site, where you can only stay for up to 3 months. 

Utilities 

As well as pitch fees, you also need to pay for electricity. There may also be separate charges for water and sewage services.

Depending on the site's policy, you may need to pay for utilities in advance or when you're billed. Some sites require you to buy a pre-payment card for electricity.

Leaving the site to travel

Most councils allow you to keep your pitch on the site for a specified time while you are away travelling, usually up to 12 weeks a year. 

Your occupancy agreement may set out the site's policy or you can check with the site manager. If you reach an agreement with the site manager allowing you to keep your pitch while you are away you should ask for this to be confirmed in writing.

You must continue to pay your pitch fees while you are away. Try to make appropriate arrangements before you leave.

Rights to pass on a tenancy to a family member

If you die, your occupancy agreement passes to your spouse or civil partner if they were living with you.

If you do not have a spouse or civil partner, your occupancy agreement can pass to a member of your family who is living with you at the time of your death.

If neither of the above applies, the occupancy agreement can pass to someone you leave it to in your will (or through the laws of intestacy if you don't have a will). That person will need permission from the council before they can move in.

Complaints about site conditions

Contact the site manager or the council's Gypsy/Traveller liaison officer if you're not happy with the facilities or conditions on the site.

You can use the council's complaints process to make an official complaint if things don't improve. 

For more information see our section on complaining about your council.

If the council still doesn't take action to improve conditions, try getting support for your case by contacting local councillors.

Use the Gov.uk council search to find your council's contact details.

Get advice about making a complaint. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Problems with disabled access

If the site or its facilities are not accessible for you, make a complaint to the site manager and council.

All councils in England have a responsibility to ensure that their services are reasonably accessible and inclusive, promoting equal opportunities for disabled people in all areas. This is known as the disability equality duty.

It is against the law for the council to discriminate against you because you are disabled, by treating you less favourably than a non-disabled person or offering you a poorer service.

More information

There are specialist organisations that provide help for members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Contact Friends, Families and Travellers or the Community Law Partnership for further information and advice.

 

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