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
Downside Common, Cobham - 31 May 2021
The unauthorised encampment at Downside Common vacated the site on Sunday 30 May.
A full clear up has been arranged and the site secured at the earliest opportunity.
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.
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.
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.
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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.