Parking on unauthorised sites

Find out what can happen if you set up an encampment on land without the owner's permission.

What is an unauthorised site?

Gypsies and Travellers sometimes set up unauthorised sites or encampments. Often this is on wasteland or at the roadside. 

Where you can't park caravans

You can’t park your caravan on land when you don’t have the owner’s permission.

Also it's an offence to park:

  • on a road or verge or in a layby in a way that obstructs or could be a danger to other users of the road
  • on cultivated land  such as farm land
  • in enclosed plantations such as land owned by the Forestry Commission

If you park on land owned by the council

Some councils may unofficially set aside areas of waste ground to be used as unauthorised sites. Caravans may be allowed to stay temporarily. 

If you park your vehicle or caravan on council-owned land, a representative from the council will visit the site to talk to you. The council will decide whether to ask you to move on. They may suggest you move to the council's official site if it has any free spaces.

The council should consider your needs:

  • how long you're planning to stay
  • if anyone is ill, elderly or pregnant and would be at risk if you had to move on
  • safety issues that may affect you (for example, if the site is near a railway line or in a polluted area)

The council also has to consider wider issues:

  • if the number of vehicles is appropriate for the size of the area you're parked on
  • what the land is normally used for and whether it's needed in the near future
  • any potential damage to the land
  • the effect on the local community

It's unlikely you'll be allowed to stay on playing fields or land that is being developed. 

In some cases, the council may agree on a leaving date with you. They may take eviction action if you don't move by that date.

Services 

The council may provide facilities such as portable toilets and bin bags for your rubbish. You may be charged a small fee. You can ask for these facilities to be provided in the interests of public health.

The council may have a Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer who could help you access services such as schools, doctors' surgeries, social work services and benefits advice. 

Harassment

A Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer at the council should be able to help if you experience harassment or antisocial behaviour from the local community.

Eviction from an unauthorised site

Steps to evict you from an unauthorised site can be taken by the land owner, the council or the police. You could be committing a criminal offence if you return to the land after the council or police direct you to leave.

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