Council policy on illegal traveller encampments
17/04/2014 07:42:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
As the summer 'traveller season' is now in full swing, where we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money evicting and then clearing up behind traveller encampments on public land, the council has put on its website its Traveller Policy. This document explains what the council is required to do by law in order to evict and what the public can expect.
You will find it on http://www.croydon.gov.uk/environment/ehs/illegalcamps
This is a précis of our approach from that policy;
Croydon Council’s approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments
The Council has responsibility for the management of unauthorised encampments on its own land. This includes any action for eviction.
Government guidance states that prior to a decision to evict the Authority must have regard to any obligations it might have under other legislation. This helps ensure compliance with our Equality and Human Rights obligations.
The Council therefore uses specific procedures to ensure the necessary enquiries are made. The enquiries must be “meaningful” and take into account social services, housing and educational responsibilities as well as liaison with other Authorities who may have statutory responsibilities such as local Health and Welfare services. Particularly:-
- In respect of the Children’s Act and “Every Child Matters” duties to co-operate to promote the well being of children and young people;
- Housing Act 1996 - obligations to homeless persons and to offer advice on housing options;
- Local Education Authority - statutory duty to make appropriate educational provision available for all school age children in their area, whether resident temporarily or permanently. Consideration should be given to the effects of eviction on the education of children “already enrolled, or in the process of being enrolled at the school”. If there is a decision to proceed with an eviction and a family is moved elsewhere within the area of the Authority alternative education arrangements must be made.
- Local Health and Welfare Services - If as a result of its enquiries, an Authority is aware that there may be occupiers at the site receiving assistance, (e.g. pregnant women, older people, newly born children) then they should liaise with relevant statutory agencies.
If during a visit, an officer becomes aware of the above matters that may require further enquiry they would need to liaise with colleagues to obtain more specialist support or guidance.
The following criteria will also be taken into consideration before reaching a decision on eviction of unauthorised encampments on Council owned land
- Public health and safety – including highway safety; obstruction or danger to road users as well as environmental and other dangers
- Any unacceptable nuisance caused to nearby residents or businesses
- Whether the presence seriously interferes with or prevents the use of that land for its normal purpose or an imminent change of use
- Any well reasoned grounds for believing the presence cannot be managed effectively e.g. size or composition of the site, any threatening behaviour to local residents, Council staff or others by site residents
The process in respect of each case of an unauthorised encampment must include the following;
- A visit and assessment by an authorised Council officer within 48 hours of notification.
- Contact made with housing providers of any fixed tenancy for information sharing purposes, ensuring any relevant details are obtained (welfare needs etc)
- Contact made with authorities where the individual/family are registered for information sharing purposes, ensuring any and all relevant details are obtained in respect of welfare needs and avoiding the Council unknowingly colluding with the commission of any unlawful act
- Information and advice in respect of the process is given to interested parties in the encampment
- Detailed records are made of actions and decisions taken
- Evidence is compiled that legal duties have been met, resources appropriately used and the needs & rights of all those involved have been balanced
The approach to intervention would depend upon whether the unauthorised encampment is situated on park land (where we make use of Council bye laws to evict) or the public highway.(where we need to obtain a Court Order for eviction).