The Council aims to treat all residents equally and with respect. When unauthorised camping takes place, we work with other agencies to balance the rights of all those involved.

Moving people when they are camped without the landowner's permission

The enforcement powers given to councils are discretionary and can only be used where certain conditions exist. We have an obligation to carry out assessments on unauthorised campers to identify any welfare issues that need to be addressed before taking enforcement action against them.

Removing people unlawfully camping on Council land

We cannot remove anyone prior to obtaining the necessary Court Order from the local Magistrates Court under section 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. However prior to the Court Order we must serve a direction to leave the land under section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 on the unauthorised campers giving them a period of time to leave of their own accord.  The length of time it takes to remove people will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, as well as how soon we can obtain a court hearing date.

Unauthorised encampments on private land

If possible, talk to the people on your land to try and agree a leaving date. Alternatively, you or your solicitor can obtain a County Court Order granting you possession of your land. Further details can be obtained from the County Court.

People unlawfully occupying their own land without planning permission

If land is purchased and occupied without planning permission, whilst this is not in itself a criminal offence, the Local Planning Authority will consider what enforcement action is appropriate eg a Planning Enforcement Notice and/or a High Court Injunction. We advise that owners of land undertake a pre-application discussion with us (acting as the Local Planning Authority) in advance of occupying any land.

Protecting parks and open spaces from encampments

Whilst it is not possible to completely protect a site, the vast majority of the Council's parks and open spaces are protected by a combination of fences, padlocked gates, height barriers and bollards and some have ditches too.

Authorised sites in Surrey

Surrey County Council owns 17 permanent Gypsy and Traveller Caravan sites across the County.

Contact

Customer Services on 01784 451499 to report encampments on Council land.

Outside of business hours, such incidents can be reported online or to Surrey Police on 101.

Land owned by the unlawful occupiers will be investigated by the Council's Planning Enforcement Team. Where appropriate, legal action will be taken. We will report encampments on land at the side of a road to Surrey County Council for action.

If the encampment is on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility.

Police involvement

The Police may activate their powers, under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to require an encampment to leave. The Police are able to activate these powers where they are satisfied that two or more people are trespassing on the land and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following has to apply:

  • damage has been caused to the land or property
  • threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent
  • the trespassers have six or more vehicles on the land