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Unauthorised encampments

An unauthorised encampment is when a person, or group, moves on to land that they do not own, without the landowner's permission. This is seen as civil trespass.

Private landowners must deal with encampments on their land.

As a council, we must follow a set legal process to deal with unauthorised encampments.

Dealing with encampments

  • We have to find out who owns the land.

  • If we own the land, we then check to find out if those camped on the land have any specific issues we need to consider.

  • If there are no specific issues we need to consider, we will serve a direction to leave.

  • If the people camped on the land stay past the date and time given in the direction to leave, we will apply to the courts for a possession order.

  • A summons is served on those camped on the land to attend court.

  • If the courts grant an order to remove the encampment, the person or people camped on the land are served with notice of this.

  • If they remain on site after the order is served, we contact bailiffs to carry out an eviction.

Evictions

Evictions may involve council staff, Surrey Police and bailiffs. They will be carefully coordinated so that the eviction is safe for everybody, including those on the site and those living nearby.

It usually takes between 8 to 14 working days to complete an eviction process, depending on the circumstances of each case and the time taken to get a court hearing.

Gypsies and Travellers

Many of the unauthorised encampments in our borough are by groups of people, such as Gypsies or Travellers, who follow a nomadic way of life, travelling the country, stopping off for a time, then moving on.

Gypsies and Travellers, together with all groups who have a particular culture, language or values, are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998. It is not illegal to roam, and people cannot be prevented from roaming.

Although, we do not, by law, have to remove individuals or groups who illegally camp on our land, we do try to move all those who have set up an unauthorised encampment as quickly as possible.