Who are Gypsies and Travellers?
Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are defined as minority ethnic groups under the Equalities Act 2010. There are a number of Gypsy and Traveller communities, each have different histories and traditions:
- Gypsies are Romany ethnic groups who have lived in Britain for around 600 years. Their ancestors originate from northern India.
- Irish Travellers are a nomadic group with a distinctive way of life who have been part of Irish and British society since ancient times.
- New Travellers are people of settled background who adopted a travelling lifestyle in the more recent past, although some are now in their third or fourth generation of travelling.
How many Gypsy and Travellers sites are there in Hertsmere?
There are currently three sites with one pitch on each, plus three sites with multiple pitches which are at:
- Brooks Place (formerly the Pylon site), Barnet Road, Potters Bar – a privately-owned site with permission for 21 pitches.
- Sandy Lane, Bushey – a Hertfordshire County Council-owned residential site with space for 27 pitches with planning permission for a further three pitches.
- South Mimms - a Hertfordshire County Council-owned transit site with space for 15 pitches.
Do you have to provide sites and pitches?
Gypsies and Travellers have accommodation needs as much as the settled population and the Government requires us to identify areas where sites could go. Currently, we have to provide two pitches per year.
If sites can be identified through our planning processes it reduces the risk of illegal encampments which can cause conflict with the settled community and can cost us money if legal action has to be taken. Find out more about our duty to provide pitches.
What is a transit site?
Transit sites are authorised sites which are used for short stays. They are provided on a permanent basis by local authorities and have basic amenities and services which include water supply, shared toilets, washing facilities/utility room, and waste disposal. All transit sites are managed and are subject to rent and council tax.
What is a residential site?
Also referred to as permanent sites, these sites are either provided by local authorities or are owned by Gypsies and Travellers. The sites are used as a long-term residence, are managed and have a number of amenities, such as water supply, electricity, individual toilets and utility rooms.
What is an unauthorised encampment?
This is where Gypsies and Travellers are using land – perhaps their own, or with permission of the landowner - but without planning permission from us for it to be used as a residential or transit site.
Can I allow Gypsies and Travellers to stay on my land?
Only if you already have planning permission for a caravan site, or you are a farmer and the Gypsies/Travellers are helping with fruit picking etc. Otherwise you may be in breach of planning or licensing law and we will take action against you.
Can you evict Gypsies/Travellers who are camped on my land without my permission?
No. It will be your responsibility to take action in the civil courts.
If Gypsies/Travellers camp on my private land, what can I do?
- talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed
- take civil action through the courts to obtain a Court Order for their eviction.
What can the council do about Gypsies/Travellers camping on the side of the road/public land?
If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable but we will consider each case on its merits. This will often involve serving an initial notice of direction requesting the group to leave the area, followed by an application to a court to seek a removal order if the group has not voluntarily moved. This is a process which can take up to five working days to complete.
n all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the Gypsies/Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.
Can you remove Gypsies / Travellers from their own land immediately
No. We must follow set rules and procedures which can take some time.
What can the police do?
The police will visit sites reported to them and make an assessment. In certain circumstances, for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles, officers may use their powers to move them on but it will depend on individual circumstances. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers is the responsibility of the landowner.