Unauthorised encampments

Nomadic life is not illegal, and Gypsy, Roma, travellers have a basic right to this way of life. It's the aim of Elmbridge Borough Council to ensure all its residents, whether living in settled or transitory communities, are treated equally and with respect. We also recognise that this has to be balanced with the rights of the general public to enjoy private and public land.  
 

We are obliged to manage unauthorised encampments within the borough on council owned land. It is not always possible to stop all access and from time to time unauthorised encampments are established.

Information on reported encampments 

Update: 4 January 2021

The unauthorised encampment at Elmgrove has now vacated the site.  

A full clear up is now being arranged, but specialist contractors may be required and this may take a few days. We are also reviewing the site to see if additional security measures could be introduced to prevent future encampments.

Update: 21 December 2021

Following a report of an unauthorised encampment at Elmgrove, adjacent to the former Elmgrove Public Hall, on 19 December 2021, the council’s contractor has visited the site to carry out an assessment required under the legal protocol for dealing with unauthorised encampments. 

We will shortly be serving them with a Notice of direction to leave by 30 December 2021 under Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. 

If they do not leave in compliance with this Notice, the council will seek a removal order from the Magistrates Court. 

Further updates will be made after this time. 

The process usually takes on average between 7 to 10 days but may take longer over the Christmas period due to the availability of the courts. 

In most instances, the issues arising from the unauthorised encampment for the community are minimal. Surrey Police are aware of the unauthorised encampment and will continue to monitor it with the Joint Enforcement Team*. Guidance on when to call the police regarding an unauthorised encampment, together with more information, can be found on the Surrey Police  website. If you need to report an incident (ASB or crime) please call 101 or report an emergency on 999 or report Anti social behaviour through Elmbridge Borough Council’s website

*a group made up of local partner agencies including Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council 

20 December 2021

Following a report of an unauthorised encampment at Elmgrove, adjacent to the former Elmgrove Public Hall, the Council’s contractor will shortly be carrying out an assessment required under the legal protocol for dealing with unauthorised encampments. 

The Council will then assess whether to serve them with a Notice of Direction to leave under Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.  

If they do not leave in compliance with this Notice, the Council will seek a removal order from the Magistrates Court. 

Further updates will be made after this time. 

The process usually takes on average between 7 to 10 days but may take longer over the public holidays, and court availability.

In most instances, the issues arising from the unauthorised encampment for the community are minimal. Surrey Police are aware of the unauthorised encampment and will continue to monitor it with the Joint Enforcement Team*. Guidance on when to call the police regarding an unauthorised encampment, together with more information, can be found on the Surrey Police website. If you need to report an incident (ASB or crime) please call 101 or report an emergency on 999 or report anti-social behaviour through the Elmbridge Borough Council website.  

*a group made up of local partner agencies including Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council  

Privately owned land

Where unauthorised camping takes place on private land it is the landowner's responsibility, and they must decide what action to take. Private landowners are able to progress immediately to eviction without the needs to carry out welfare checks. Public bodies are required by law to consider the human rights of groups, and to complete a welfare check before considering what steps to take.

Prevention

Elmbridge Borough Council seeks to protect all of its car parks and open spaces, however it is not possible to stop all access to council owned land and sometimes unauthorised encampments will be established.

Elmbridge Borough Council has reviewed all of its vulnerable open spaces, and in consultation with Ward Councillors have installed a range of security measures including metal posts, wooden posts, height barriers, ditches and additional planting remaining sympathetic to the urban or rural nature of the locality. Between 2014/15 and today, the Council has invested over £80,000 in further security of its land. All sites are checked regularly by our contractors and any vulnerable areas are improved, for instance extra metal plates welded to locked gates to provide extra security.

Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey Police have agreed a protocol so that policy and clear lines of responsibility are in place. This protocol sets out the overall approach in Elmbridge.

Management of unauthorised Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) encampments

Information on criminal behaviour

If you have witnessed anti-social or criminal behaviour and are able to identify the person/persons responsible you should report this on the Police 101 non-emergency number; if it is an emergency report it on 999.

When an unauthorised encampment happens on our land, we will almost always take the lead in arranging its removal. In any event, a police supervisor will attend the scene of every unauthorised encampment when reported and conduct an initial site assessment, along with ensuring those present receive a code of conduct notice.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime, they will investigate and deal with reports of criminal activity and public disorder.

Under certain circumstances the police can use powers under Sections 61 and 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which gives them the power to remove trespassers and their vehicles.

It is for the police to decide if these powers should be used, and usually they will only be invoked where there is significant impact on the local community.  

Information on anti-social behaviour

Anti-social behaviour takes in a range of nuisances, disorder and crimes which affects people’s lives on a daily basis. The Home Office describes anti-social behaviour as, ‘any aggressive, intimidating or destructive activity that damages or destroys another person’s quality of life’.

Report anti-social behaviour associated with an unauthorised encampment.

If you wish to report crime anonymously please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Car parking

We focus our efforts on moving an encampment on and the legal processes that this involves, rather than trying to enforce the collection of car parking charges.

Other information 

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Unauthorised moorings in Elmbridge 

The Council is aware of an increase in boats moored without permission in the borough. Within the Public Right of Navigation there is deemed a right for boat owners to stop on land, subject to the necessary landowners consent, for a reasonable period. The borough follows the Environment Agency’s policy that 24 hours is considered a reasonable time within normal navigation.

The Council continues to work with the Environment Agency to find a long term solution to unauthorised moorings.

Find out more information about unauthorised moorings in the borough

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