The Council will not intervene in respect of encampments on privately owned land. We expect local landowners to deal with the matter in accordance with civil law. We have developed guidance to assist private landowners, which is provided below, however independent legal advice should always be sought.
Common Law of Landowners
A private landowner has the undisputed right to repossess his/her land. If, after asking the unauthorised travellers to leave, they refuse to do so you should contact the Police, the District Council and seek your own legal advice, through a Solicitor, the County Court for the District or the Citizens Advice Bureau. (Please see contact details below).
Powers available to the Police
Directing unauthorised campers to leave land
Whilst it is usually the responsibility of the landowner to take action to remove unauthorised encampments, Sections 61-62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives the police discretionary powers to direct trespassers to leave in certain circumstances. A senior police officer has to take account of issues of behaviour, in combination with the impact on the landowner and settled community. It is used where behaviour or conduct is considered inappropriate or where the impact of the encampment on others is unacceptable. The police must consider the following:
- Local amenities that are deprived to the communities or significant impact on the environment;
- Local disruption to the economy;
- Significant disruption to the local community or environment;
- A danger to life;
- Need to take preventative action.
County Court Powers
Private landowners can apply to the County Court for an Order for Possession under Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules. This is the method used for the recovery of land, which is occupied by persons who have entered or remained on the land without the consent of the landowner. All possession proceedings must be commenced in the County Court for the district where the property is situated. The Horsham or Brighton County Courts have jurisdiction for Mid Sussex.
If the unauthorised travellers indicate they are unable to move without medical or mechanical assistance, contact details for medical practitioners or local mechanics can be found in Yellow Pages. If there are urgent or serious medical problems the travellers need to be directed to the appropriate local hospital. Landowners should use reputable bailiffs and only ‘reasonable force’ should be used if necessary.
Some landowners are happy to let small groups stay where good relations are established early and there are no major problems. Long-term occupation will require planning permission from Mid Sussex District Council. If the landowner is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, then the council may choose to take proceedings against the landowner that require removal of the unauthorised encampment.