Gypsies and Travellers

Gypsies and Travellers are recognised as ethnic groups with particular cultures, language and values and are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976. For generations they have followed a nomadic way of life.  'New age' groups who may have chosen a nomadic way of life are not recognised as an ethnic group, but the same rules apply to their encampments as to those of Gypsies and Travellers.

The rights of Gypsies/Travellers have to be balanced with the rights of landowners and those affected by the encampment. Each encampment is dealt with on its merits and if no public health nuisance or strong objections are received then the Government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

See our FAQs about unauthorised encampments and the Council's obligation to identify in the district Permanent Sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

Dealing with Illegal Encampments

Encampments on District Council land

The District Council is only able to evict Gypsies/Travellers off District Council owned land. If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. There is a procedure that the District Council has to follow in dealing with such illegal encampments:

  • show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on the land without consent
  • make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
  • ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with
  • follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable us to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the Courts to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site

It normally takes two to three weeks to gather the relevant information and obtain a court hearing date. The Court can refuse to grant the District Council an order to move the Gypsies/Travellers on if it believes there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site or if the Court believes that the council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers.

Please report any illegal encampments.

Encampments on County Council Land

Derbyshire County Council deals with encampments on their land, the highway or grass verges. Please contact the County Council on 01629 538 466 for sites on the public highway or on Derbyshire County Council land.

Encampments on Private Land

If the encampment is on private land the landowner, if possible, should talk to the travellers to try and gauge how long they will be there. The landowner can also take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.

Any decision by the landowner to allow the travellers to stay on site must be undertaken with the correct planning permissions and licensing. Any breach of these permissions will result in the Council taking action against the landowner.

Permanent Sites

It is widely accepted that there is a national shortage of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers. This has led to an increasing incidence of both unauthorised encampments and unauthorised developments.

Gypsies and Travellers do not spend all their time travelling. It is usual for a family to have a permanent site to which they return year after year, although they may leave the site from time to time to travel, for example to find work.

A Traveller site will normally consist of a number of pitches, which will cater for the family units who live on the site. A pitch is the space required to accommodate one household and will vary from family to family. Generally a pitch will need to be large enough to accommodate at least an amenity building, a large trailer, drying space for clothes and parking for at least one vehicle.

The number of pitches that should be provided within a local authority area is determined through a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment. This requirement is then reflected in that local authority’s Local Plan. The requirement for the Derbyshire Dales District Council Local Plan area is:
  • 6 pitches by 2019
  • 1 additional pitch for each 5 year period after 2019
  • A total of 9 pitches by 2034

As of August 2022 no authorised pitches have been provided within the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan area.

At its meeting on 2 September 2020 Council resolved to take forward a site at Knabhall Lane, Tansley, for further consideration in order to meet the need for a permanent Traveller site, but this location was subsequently rejected as unsuitable following land investigations.

The Police

The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass is the responsibility of the landowner not the Police. The Police will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences.

In certain circumstances (for example where the Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), Police Officers may use powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will not be used as a matter of routine. The section gives the police powers to act but officers can choose whether to use them or not. Each case will be looked at on its merits having regard to the safety of the community and taking into consideration any aggravating factors of crime or disorder.

The police will call at all unauthorised sites - you can call the Derbyshire Constabulary on 101 for non-emergencies and enquiries.