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Identifying the owner of the land

This content applies to England

How to identify who owns the land on which Travellers are parked.

Ownership of the land is crucial to determining rights to remain. Advisers should ask the following questions:

  • are the owners known or unknown?
  • is it highway land?
  • is it local authority or common land?
  • is it privately owned?

If the owners are unknown, Travellers may be able to park undetected on the land for some time.

Highway land

Highway authorities have the right to remove vehicles parked on highway land (usually the land between the fences on either side of the road) since it is an offence for a person without lawful authority or excuse to obstruct free passage on a highway.[1]

There are also powers to remove vehicles that are illegally, obstructively or dangerously parked, or abandoned or broken down on a highway.[2] Highway authorities can also use the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 - see the page on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act for further details.

Common land

Members of the public have rights of access for air and exercise on some common land,[3] but do not have the right to drive caravans on to the land and camp there.[4] District councils can also make orders prohibiting caravans on common land for the purposes of human habitation.[5]

They can also use the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. See Criminal Justice and Public Order Act page for details.

Local authority land

Local authorities can evict Travellers from their own land using trespass laws (see below) or using the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 - see separate page on the Act for details.

Private land

Under common law, private owners have the right to evict trespassers (see below) and can also use the powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 - see separate page on the Act for details.

Network Rail land

If the Travellers are on operational Network Rail land (formerly British Rail land, ie near a railway line), an authorised person, after requesting Travellers and vehicles to leave, has the power to arrest without a warrant. Otherwise, Network Rail must evict using trespass laws or the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.137 Highway Act 1980.

[2] s.99 Part 8 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

[3] s.193 Law of Property Act 1925.

[4] s.193 Law of Property Act 1925; s.34 Road Traffic Act 1988.

[5] s.23 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as amended.

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