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Travellers and council sites

This content applies to England

The powers of local authorities to provide sites for Gypsy and Travellers, and the rights of occupiers of such sites.

Power to provide sites

Local authorities have the power to provide sites but are under no duty to do so.[1] The power to provide sites can be exercised by county councils, district councils and London boroughs.

Government guidance advises that local planning authorities should ensure that sites are sustainable economically, socially and environmentally.[2]

Local authorities are required to include policies to address the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in their local development documents.[3] Local authorities are required to assess the need for accommodation of Gypsies and Travellers when undertaking a review of housing needs in their district.[4]

Allocating pitches

A local authority's policy for the allocation of pitches must comply with the requirements of Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996. For more information see the section Allocation of local authority housing.

A policy that required applicants to have an existing residential connection with the local authority area or evidence of a 'care of' address (for the receipt of benefits or other specified purposes) was held to be lawful.[5]

Management of sites

Gypsy and Traveller Site Management Good Practice Guide[6] provides advice for managers of sites, either managed by the local authority or by a private registered provider of social housing that owns them, or by another organisation on their behalf, on maintaining well-run and sustainable sites.

Mobile Homes Act 1983

With effect from 30 April 2011, all local authority sites for Gypsies and Travellers are included in the definition of 'protected sites' for the purposes of the Mobile Homes Act 1983.[7] The DCLG has issued related guidance.[8] County council sites came within the protection of the 1983 Act in January 2005.[9]

Permanent sites

Under the 1983 Act, the owner of a protected site must give to an occupier of a permanent site (ie not a transit site (see below)), within 28 days of the making of an agreement to station a mobile home on a protected site and occupy it as her/his only or main residence, a written statement which sets out:[10]

  • the names and addresses of the parties to the agreement, the date of commencement and the particulars of the plot occupied
  • the express terms of the agreement
  • the terms implied by 1983 Act (including those governing security of tenure – see below), and
  • any other requirements as may be prescribed by regulations.

If the owner does not provide a written agreement, the occupier can apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for an order to compel the owner to provide such an agreement.[11] The form that a written statement must take is set out in the regulations.[12]

For information about the terms implied by the 1983 Act, see the page on Implied terms.

There are succession rights for an occupier on a local authority sites for Gypsies and Travellers but s/he does not have the right to assign her/his pitch.

All existing occupiers of local authority sites fall automatically fall within the protection of the 1983 Act on 30 April 2011, except when termination proceedings had began before that date. District and Borough councils must provide existing occupiers with a written statement of their pitch agreement which sets out their new rights and responsibilities by 28 May 2011. The express terms of the agreement are unenforceable until the authority provides a written statement.[13]

Transit sites

Many local authorities provide short-term transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers. A transit site is defined as a site where occupiers have agreements to station a mobile home only for periods of less than three months. Occupiers on transit sites are covered by the 1983 Act but have more limited rights, including less security of tenure (see below).[14]

Security of tenure: permanent site

A permanent site is one that it is not a transit site (see below).

Termination by the occupier

The occupier can terminate the agreement by giving the local authority at least four weeks' notice in writing.[15]

Termination by the local authority

A local authority can enforce the right to terminate a mobile home occupier's agreement by obtaining a court order. The court must consider it reasonable for the agreement to be terminated. The local authority can apply to the court to terminate an agreement where the:[16]

  • occupier has breached a term of the agreement
  • occupier is not occupying the mobile home as her/his only or main residence
  • condition of the mobile home is such that it is having a detrimental effect on the site.

If the local authority makes a successful application to terminate the agreement on one of the above grounds, it must obtain a further order from the court (which will normally be applied for in the same proceedings), authorising it to regain possession of the pitch.

Breaching a term of the agreement

Before applying to the court to terminate the occupier's agreement, the local authority must serve a notice to remedy on the occupier requiring that the breach is remedied within a reasonable time. What constitutes a reasonable time for remedying the breach will depend on the facts of the case.[17] If a further breach occurs only after the reasonable period has elapsed the site owner must serve a fresh notice. There is no prescribed form for a notice to remedy and a warning letter was held to constitute valid notice. [18] Common breaches include antisocial behaviour, failure to pay pitch fees or to keep the mobile home in a decent state of repair.

Where the breach of the agreement is so serious as to be not capable of remedy, for example a serious act of violence, there is no requirement to serve a notice to remedy on the occupier.[19] Before applying to the court for an order to regain possession of the pitch, the local authority would still be advised to give notice to the occupier stating that it considers the breach incapable of remedy but that in the event the court takes a different view, state that it is giving notice requiring that the breach is remedied within a reasonable time.

Not occupying as only or main residence

Temporary absences by the occupier will not give the local authority the right to terminate an occupier's agreement.

Condition of the mobile home

Where the application is made on the grounds of the detrimental effect of the condition of the mobile home, the court can adjourn the proceedings where the occupier has stated s/he will carry out the necessary repairs and it is reasonably practicable for her/him to carry those out. An occupier should be advised to seek expert help in preparing a schedule of repairs to put in front of the court.

This ground is comparative, so if other mobile homes on the site are in poor condition, it may be difficult for the local authority to show that the mobile home is having a detrimental effect.

Re-siting of mobile home

The Court can order the occupier of a pitch to station her/his mobile home, for any period, either on another pitch on the same site or on another protected site, when it is satisfied that the alternative pitch is 'broadly comparable' to the existing pitch and:[20]

  • it is reasonable for the occupier to move, or
  • the local authority needs to carry out essential repairs or emergency works.

The local authority must pay all costs associated with moving to and from the alternative pitch.

Security of tenure: transit site

A transit site is a site where occupiers have agreements to station a mobile home only for periods of less than three months.

Termination by the occupier

The occupier can terminate the agreement by giving the local authority notice in writing. No minimum period of notice is required.[21]

Termination by the local authority

It is not necessary for the local authority to get a court order. The authority can terminate the agreement:

  •  by giving the occupier at least four weeks' notice to quit,[22] or
  • forthwith, when the occupier has breached a term in her/his agreement and has not complied with a notice served by the local authority giving her/him reasonable time to remedy that breach, and the local authority considers it reasonable to terminate the agreement.[23]

Jurisdiction to determine disputes

The jurisdiction for disputes under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 falls to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).[24] The exception is claims for possession which are heard in the county court. 

Home loss payment

Where the Gypsy or Traveller has to move as a consequence of the site being subject to a compulsory purchase s/he may be eligible for a home loss payment (this applies regardless of whether the site is owned by a local authority or not). However, as a caravan dweller s/he will only be entitled to such payment if no suitable alternative site is made available on which to station the caravan.[25]

The High Court held that although a similar provision did not apply to those displaced from bricks and mortar accommodation, the difference in treatment was objectively and reasonably justified and was not incompatible with article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[26]

For more information about such payments see the page Home loss payments.

Wales

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

[1] s.80 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and s.24 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

[2] para 13 Planning policy for traveller sites, DCLG, August 2015.

[3] Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004

[4] s.225(1) Housing Act 2004.

[5] R (on the application of McDonagh) v Hackney LBC [2012] EWHC 373 (Admin).

[6] Gypsy and Traveller Site Management Good Practice Guide, DCLG, July 2009.

[7] s.318 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 as brought into force by art 2 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8 and Transitional, Transitory and Savings Provisions) Order 2011 SI 2011/1002 (C.40).

[8] Applying the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to local authority traveller sites: Guidance; DCLG, April 2011.

[9] Consultation on Implementing the Mobile Homes Act 1983 on local authority Gypsy and Traveller Sites: Summary of responses, DCLG, October 2010.

[10] s.1(2) Mobile Homes Act 1983 and ch.4, Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983, as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[11] s.1(5) Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Jurisdiction of Residential Property Tribunals)(England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1005; First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Order) 2010 SI 2010/2655, as amended by First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Amendment) Order 2013 SI 2013/1187.

[12] schedule to Mobile Homes (Written Statement) (England) Regulations 2011 SI 2011/1006.

[13] art 6 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8 and Transitional, Transitory and Savings Provisions) Order 2011 SI 2011/1002 (C.40).

[14] ch.3, Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003; see also R (on the application of O'Brien) v Bristol CC [2014] EWHC 2423 (Admin).

[15] ch.4.3, Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[16] ch.4.4 to 4.6, Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[17] Telchadder v Wickland (Holdings) Ltd [2014] UKSC 57.

[18] Telchadder v Wickland (Holdings) Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 635.

[19] Telchadder v Wickland (Holdings) Ltd [2014] UKSC 57.

[20] ch.4.8 Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[21] ch.3.3, Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[22] ch.3.4(a), Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[23] ch.3.4(b), Sch1, Mobile Homes Act 1983 as amended by Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1 and Consequential Amendments) (England) Order 2011 SI 2011/1003.

[24] First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Order) 2010 SI 2010/2655, as amended by First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Amendment) Order 2013 SI 2013/1187.

[25] s.33 Land Compensation Act 1973.

[26] R (on the application of (1) Mahoney (2) Jones) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 589 (Admin).

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