Unauthorised encampment

An unauthorised site or encampment is where people set up home on land without the landowner's permission. This can be private or public land.

We work with Bedfordshire Police and other partners to take action and to prevent further unauthorised encampments.

How to report an unauthorised encampment

Report an unauthorised encampment

Public land

When we have been notified of an unauthorised encampment on public land, we visit the encampment and decide the best action to take, but we must take into account:

  • human rights of both local residents and people in the encampment
  • welfare of any vulnerable people and children in the encampment

Checks are normally completed within one working day of the encampment arriving. To remove an encampment which includes vehicles, we usually use powers to issue a legal notice ordering the encampment to leave within no more than 24 hours.

If the encampment does not leave, the next step is to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order requiring the encampment to move on. The Court decides when the hearing for the removal order takes place. This is normally within a week.

Once the order is obtained, we instruct enforcement agents to remove the encampment straight away.

We clear any rubbish and littering as quickly as possible. Normally, this is done on the day the encampment leaves or the following working day. It may take a little longer if there are large amounts of rubbish.

How we prevent further unauthorised encampments on public land

Solutions to prevent further unauthorised encampments will depend on the location. We look at different options to prevent more encampments, such as ditches, bunding (earth mounds), fencing, bollards, height barriers.

Measures have already been put in place at a number of Council-owned public open spaces around Bedford Borough.

Police powers

The Police have the power to remove an encampment immediately if there are six or more vehicles. They can also take action where there is:

  • damage caused to the land or any property on it
  • threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to the lawful occupier of the land

The Police also have to consider the welfare and human rights of people in the encampment and have a policy for using these powers. We alert them to all encampments involving vehicles and work closely with them.

If there is any criminal activity, this should be reported directly to the Police on 101.

Court injunctions

We have court injunctions in place for several locations where there has been repeated encampments in the past and will consider other locations on a case-by-case basis.

For an injunction to be issued by the Court, we must be able to prove that encampments on a particular location are causing serious problems and disruption and gather sufficient evidence to support such applications.

An injunction does not necessarily mean that an encampment can be removed any faster. We still need to go through a legal process to enforce the injunction.

Private land

Unauthorised encampments on private land are the responsibility of the landowner.

We can provide advice to a landowner on request about their options.

Private landowners can take legal action through the Courts, or use common law. Through common law, private landowners have the right to use reasonable force to remove the occupants of unauthorised encampments. This can be an expensive process, and it does not prevent individuals from returning.

Unlike other land owners, we have the responsibility for the welfare of vulnerable people and children in the borough, and has a legal duty to treat all communities fairly and equally.

We also have legal powers to remove encampments that other landowners do not have. This means that unlike private landowners, we have to consider the rights of both local residents and people in an encampment and must follow the relevant legal process for Local Authorities when considering action.