Unauthorised encampments - decision not to evict immediately
Where unauthorised encampments do not give rise to complaints of nuisance then immediate action may not need to be considered. However, a mutually acceptable date for leaving the site should be agreed. It is recognised that there are situations whereby serious problems can quickly arise either due to the site chosen or the subsequent behaviour of those encamped at that site. In those circumstances where there is an unwillingness to enter into or honour agreements about a leaving date then the immediate initiation of the eviction process may be justifiable.
When the decision is not to evict immediately (because nuisance is not being caused to others) the period for which the encampment will be allowed to remain should be determined by the specific circumstances of the site and any specific needs of those camping, which may include:
- the educational needs of any children
- the need for immediate medical treatment.
Where there is an indication by those making up an encampment that it is their intention to stay in an area for a short period, and they are unlikely to cause disruption or damage during their stay, a departure date should be agreed with the stipulation that staying beyond the stated date may trigger court proceedings for eviction. Appropriate consideration should be given to referring those involved to more suitable sites.
Encampments are to be kept under review and should be subject to regular visits; complaints should be monitored and logged by the Local Authority and the Police. Changed or deteriorating circumstances and/or behaviour should lead to the initiation of eviction proceedings. Examples of 'change' include:
- increased levels of nuisance or environmental damage
- expansion of the initial encampment group by the arrival of further campers
- anti-social or criminal activity.
Local planning authorities may also wish to consider that by allowing encampments on an unauthorised site for a short period then public amenity or existing use of land or buildings may be unacceptably affected, thererby meriting protection of the public interest. However, depending on the circumstances the effects of unauthorised use, for short periods, may not be considered unacceptable. In this context the local authority should consider the length of time specified in Part 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1995 General Permitted Development Order (caravans staying on land without requiring specific planning permission).
Where it has been decided that an encampment is not to be evicted (for the time being) local authorities should ensure that other relevant bodies are informed. This will include:
- elected members and relevant ward members
- the public, especially complainants
- local education service and health and welfare agencies.
Where an encampment is to be allowed to stay (for a short period) the local authority may offer temporary services such as the provision of rubbish collection service (skips or sacks) and toilets. This will be subject to payment by the campers in advance.
The Local Authority is only empowered to initiate eviction proceedings in court in relation to illegal encampments on Council owned land.