Gypsies and Travellers

Who are the Gypsies and Travellers of Britain?

  • Romany Gypsies are the largest minority ethnic group among the Travelling communities in Britain, whose ancestors migrated to the UK some 500 years ago
  • Travellers of Irish Heritage do not necessarily come immediately from Ireland, and may visit Ireland infrequently and for short periods only. It is thought that many Irish Travellers are descendants of people who lost their land during the potato famine in the mid nineteenth century
  • New Travellers are a community of more recent origin. They have adopted this way of life for a variety of reasons, such as lifestyle change, homelessness, unemployment or environmental issues.

Why do Gypsies/Travellers pursue a travelling lifestyle?

In most cases it has been a way of life for generations. Their way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods in different locations in order to earn a living for themselves and their family.

Like other minority ethnic groups Gypsies and Travellers have their own language, culture and traditions. These are passed down the family and, as in any family, the onus on keeping them varies from family to family.

Gypsies and Travellers may move into houses, but do not lose their culture or ethnic status. Many move into houses for health reasons, or to give their children an education. Many will still travel in the summer months, even if they are based in a house.

How do Gypsies and Travellers affect me?

Some of the better known areas of work that Gypsies and Travellers are involved in include seasonal agricultural work, motor trading and tree-felling. Some are employed as academics, teachers and public servants and in this way they add to the local economy.

Gypsies and Travellers add to the culture and diversity of Nottinghamshire and the positive contribution of Gypsies and Travellers should be recognised.

Why do Gypsies and Travellers set up sites without permission?

The lack of public sites and the difficulties Gypsies and Travellers have in setting up their own sites has often left them without the ability to access their basic rights to accommodation.

Why do Gypsies and Travellers pull up so near to the settled community?

Like the settled community, Gypsies and Travellers need access to services. They may want to be near a school or shop or petrol station to access water and food. Many of the traditional stopping places that Gypsies and Travellers have used for decades have now disappeared because of urban expansion.

Does the council have a duty to move Gypsies/Travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission on private land?

No. If Travellers are camped on council land, the council can evict them, using the proper and most appropriate channels to do so. If they are camped on private land, usually this becomes the landowner's responsibility.

The Government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

If Gypsies/Travellers camp on my land what can I do?

Talk to them, and through negotiation, see if a leaving date can be agreed.

If this cannot be achieved you can take proceedings through the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules, 1998. There must be a minimum of two clear days between the service of documents and the Court hearing. You can also seek the help of a solicitor.

What if I decide to let them stay on my land temporarily?

Unless you have already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or you are a farmer and they are helping you with work e.g. fruit picking, then you could be in breach of the Planning Acts.

You may wish to seek further advice from the Planning Department of the relevant Local Authority.

More information on planning in Nottinghamshire.

I have seen Gypsies/Travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other Council-owned land. What can the you do in these cases?

If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is reasonable. We consider each case on its merits.

In all cases the site is visited and every effort is made to try and make sure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that a portable toilet and refuse collection facilities may be provided.

If the council want to, can they force Gypsies/Travellers to move immediately?

No. There are steps we must take first. We need to:

  • be able to show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on land without consent
  • make enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers and their children
  • go through the proper channels in terms of serving notices and follow due processes in the courts to gain the necessary authority to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site.

Can the court refuse to grant the council an order to move the Gypsies/Travellers on?

Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site, or if the Court thinks we have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding their general health and welfare.

We have a duty to find out this information before going to court.

What can the police do?

Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence and the prevention of Trespass is the responsibility of the landowner not the police.

The police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example where the Travellers have with them six or more vehicles). The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime and they will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences however, these powers will not be used as a matter of routine.

Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives the police powers to act, but officers visting the site can choose whether to use them or not.

Each case will be looked at on merit, having due regard for the safety of the community but also taking into consideration any aggrevating factors of crime or disorder.

Further information

For further information you can contact:

The police will call at all unauthorised sites.

You can call Nottinghamshire Police Call Centre by dialling 101

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