Unauthorised encampments

Unauthorised camping is not a criminal offence. Trespass is a civil offence, giving land owners and local authorities the right to repossess their property using the due process of law.

The land owner is responsible for unauthorised encampments; Slough Borough Council (SBC) is the lead agency if
the unauthorised encampment is on council land. The duty of the police is to preserve peace and prevent crime.

Report an unauthorised encampment to Slough Borough Council’s anti-social behaviour hotline on 01753 875298.

Any crime, disorder or nuisance associated with an encampment should be reported to Thames Valley Police on the 101 phone number or via the Thames Valley Police website. If it is an emergency call 999.

What happens when SBC receive details of an unauthorised encampment?

SBC officers will find out who the land belongs to.

If the land is owned by the council

Council officers will usually visit the site within one working day to make an assessment of the situation and carry out welfare checks. Welfare checks include signposting the occupants of the site to housing advice, medical facilities or any other service they may require. At this point they are told that they are trespassing and told they must vacate the site otherwise legal action may be taken.

If the land is privately owned

It is the land owner’s responsibility to take the necessary action to evict. The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the trespassers or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to
obtain a Court Order for their eviction.

Landowners are recommended to seek legal advice as soon as the encampment arrives.

What rights do the travelling community have?

The decision to adopt a travelling lifestyle either on a long or short-term basis is made by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons.

Everyone has rights, including travellers, the local community and the people who own the land where the unauthorised encampment is located. Ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values, are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

It is therefore important travellers are not denied the right to council services.

How quickly can the council move trespassers?

The council must:

  • Show that the trespassers are on land without consent
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children’s education
  • Ensure the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with.

To do this, the council follows a civil legal process, alongside Government guidance, which involves proving ownership of the land, obtaining details of the encampment, assessing an encampment’s effect on the local area, and then following the most appropriate course of legal action to ensure the most effective and timely response is taken.

Once council officers have visited the site to carry out an assessment, they prepare evidence, which is reviewed to determine the most appropriate power available to the council to remove the encampment.

This may include a request to the police to use the powers available to them.

It is not possible to provide an accurate timescale for removal of the encampment, as each case differs. There may also be further delays if there are welfare concerns for those occupying the land which need attention.

Police responsibilities to unauthorised encampments

Periodic visits to the site by police officers can be beneficial to get to know the site residents and pick up on any community tensions that may lead to more serious incidents.

The police should discuss what constitutes unacceptable conduct and they may also provide a Code of Conduct to those trespassing which they ask them to adhere to.

The Police may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to direct trespassers to leave land, if they consider it appropriate (although Section 61 cannot be used on encampments on the highway). These powers are discretionary and they will consider the following as guidance:

  • Are communities deprived of local amenities or is there a significant impact upon the environment?
  • Is there local disruption to the economy?
  • Is there other significant disruption to the local community or environment?
  • Is there a danger to life?
  • Has there been a significant increase in local crime directly attributable to the encampment?

The presence of an encampment without any aggravating factors should not normally create an expectation that police will use eviction powers. The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and need to consider the rights of both the site residents and the wider community. It is for the police alone to decide if Section 61 is to be used.

Dealing with anti-social behaviour (ASB) on unauthorised encampments

The Safer Slough Partnership is committed to tackling ASB and recognises that this type of behaviour may occur on unauthorised encampments. Council officers will work in partnership with the police in assessing the necessary level of response for each individual incursion. Council officers will co-ordinate any action including enforcement action against those individuals who cause ASB within the borough and will also consider what type of action is appropriate in each given case.

What measures can we take to prevent unauthorised encampments?

On land owned by Slough Borough Council measures have been taken to safeguard a number of open spaces by installing railings, fences and bollards. All council staff and contractors are responsible for ensuring the security of spaces when on site. If you see an open gate on SBC land, please report it on 01753 475111.

Private landowners are advised to make arrangements to ensure the security of their land at all times.

Cleaning up

Responsibility for cleaning up after an unauthorised encampment lies with the landowner.

Where land belongs to Slough Borough Council, clean up will take place as soon as practicable after the encampment has moved on.

Where land is privately owned, it is the responsibility of the landowner to clean up. Where necessary and appropriate, SBC can take action against the landowner if this is not done in a reasonable space of time.