«NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED Joint Agency Protocol for responding to unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller Encampments. Final version May 2011 Policy ...»
At the time of writing a bid has been submitted by Allerdale and Home Space on behalf of all the district council for more small family sites across the county. A draft County strategy is part of this bid. However, the new government has just announced that money for new sites is part of the cuts. The future of the bid is uncertain.
Types of provision It is anticipated that site provision might be provided publicly or privately and
take a variety of forms:
Residential sites providing long-term settled accommodation.
• Transit sites, with varying levels of amenities, formal to informal, • providing for Gypsies and Travellers who want to stay for a period of up to about three months in an area.
Emergency stopping places would be locations where families have • stopped which are judged suitable for a short stay. Facilities might be temporarily provided at such locations.
The joint agency group recognises that Gypsies and Travellers should be involved in site planning and design to ensure that sites are well used, are safe and appropriate to the cultures and lifestyles of Gypsy and Traveller families.
Using the spaces available.
Local authority and police officers dealing with unauthorised encampments should have information about vacancies on local authority sites within their area, and ideally in neighbouring areas. Ideally, local authority officers should also be prepared to assist unauthorised campers without local accommodation to find places on privately-owned sites and in permanent housing if this is requested.
There should be close working between site managers and local authority and police officers dealing with unauthorised camping over allocations of pitches on sites. Site managers may be aware of issues around Gypsy/Traveller group and family compatibility, which must be taken into account when allocating pitches on residential sites.
More specifically, where police are seeking to use the new powers under s62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (inserted by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003), a police officer must consult the local authorities in whose area the encamped land lies about the availability of suitable pitches on relevant sites.
The Police will look to the local authority to identify temporary ‘acceptable' sites.
in circumstances where there are no available pitches on authorised sites.
Transit sites and stopping places will be managed to prevent Gypsies and Travellers staying longer than the maximum permitted stay. Site turnover must be maintained if such sites are to continue to cater for Gypsies and Travellers with a nomadic lifestyle. Reluctance to move from transit sites and stopping places may indicate a need for further residential site provision.
Unauthorised encampments are almost always, by definition, unlawful.
However, while there are insufficient authorised sites, it is recognised that some unauthorised camping will continue.
5. What to do when unauthorised encampments occur The relevant agencies should talk to each other as soon as an unauthorised encampment occurs
5.1. Graded response There will be a graded response and these responses will involve consultation with all partners. Police powers will only be used in exceptional circumstances.
1. A decision should be made as to whether police/local authority/County Council resources should be deployed to the site.
2. If deployed to the unauthorised encampment, a ‘site’ risk assessment should be conducted. An ‘acceptable behaviour’ contract should be struck with the occupiers, if appropriate.
3. If the site is deemed as ‘temporarily allowed’, no further action needs to be taken other than monitoring that the situation remains the same and reassurance of the local community may be necessary.
4. If the site is deemed as ‘not allowed’, negotiations need to begin for the occupiers to leave the site.
5.2. Initial response to Unauthorised camping
-on the public highway It is anticipated that all encampments on the highway will be unauthorised or ‘not allowed’. There are no powers to authorise them and they are technically an obstruction although in most cases they pose little or no danger to vehicular, pedestrian or other traffic. Each encampment will be considered on its own merits.
At the County Council all complaints or enquiries will be handled by the Cumbria Highways Hotline Call Centre. The Hotline Call Centre should inform the appropriate Engineer of the County Council’s Consultant for the area and the County Council’s representatives on the local Joint Liaison Groups.
Depending on who takes the initial call, the Engineer, the Police and District Council should contact each other to share information about the encampment, arrange a joint visit to the site, discuss how the encampment will be managed and if children are involved decide who will notify Children’s services ‘Link officer’ with the details of how the encampment is being managed so that any visit they might want to make is a planned event known about by all relevant agencies.
At the time of writing the Link Officers are:
Carlisle Isobel Graham Children’s Services
3 Alfred Street Carlisle CA1 1PX firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01228 227028 Allerdale and Copeland;
Janice O’Neil Children’s Services New Oxford Street Workington Ca14 2LW email@example.com Tel: 01900 706344 Furness Paula West Children’s Services Market Street Barrow in Furness LA14 2LH firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01229 407418 East and South Lakeland Laura Fitzgerald Children’s Service Condor Block Busher Walk Kendal LA9 4RQ email@example.com Tel: 01539713375 The Cumbria Travellers Programme is also available for support, led by Anne Taylor. Tel: 079666 491 57. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Travellers may already be known to them from an encampment elsewhere in Cumbria and there may be useful information to share.
If in the judgement of the Engineer and the Police representative the site is an obstruction then the Police Communication Centre (Tel: 0845 33 00 247) should be informed and formally requested to take appropriate action. All agencies need to know if action is to be taken otherwise plans to manage the encampment will be disrupted.
If the obstruction is technical then the County Council’s representative on the local Joint Liaison Group should be informed and the information from the initial site visit passed on.
The Call Centre should be informed of the involvement of the Joint Liaison Groups and all subsequent calls or correspondence from the public passed to the Council’s representative. It is the responsibility of the Joint Liaison Group which includes County Council representatives to co-ordinate a response to the encampment. They will do this through site meetings, assessing the needs of the Travellers, monitoring the encampment as set out below. This group will determine if or when a ‘Direction to Leave’ notice or letter requiring them to leave and warning of civil proceedings should be served. The Engineer should attend if road safety or obstruction is identified as an issue.
-other unauthorised encampments when an unauthorised encampment is reported: the Police will notify the District Council and/or the County council as appropriate and vice versa, to share information about the encampment, arrange a joint visit to the site, discuss how the encampment will be managed If children are involved they will notify Children’s services Link officer as above.
The Cumbria Travellers Programme are also available for support. Contact Anne Taylor. Tel: 079666 491 57. Email: email@example.com. The Travellers may already be known to them from an encampment elsewhere in Cumbria and there may be useful information to share.
A decision will be made as to whether a site visit is necessary.
• The response will be proportionate to the information reported. i.e. has there been any wrong doing, how many people or vehicles are involved, are there people trespassing or engaged in any form of anti-social behaviour etc.
If necessary and practicable there will be an initial joint visit involving • the police, district /County Council and if possible the landowner.
When approaching the site, partner agencies present should engage in • constructive discussion with all those involved in the unauthorised encampment and the landowner. Care should be taken to ensure those involved are treated with dignity and respect.
It should be explained that in Cumbria the problems of unauthorised • camping are managed through a co-ordinated approach from interested agencies. At no time should it be suggested that unauthorised encampment is the sole responsibility of a particular agency.
It should be made clear to all concerned that police/agency attendance in • this first instance is simply to carry out an initial assessment of the circumstances of the encampment.
Those involved in the encampment should not feel that the police/local • authority have already made decisions to take action, nor should it be intimated this is the case. The officers attending should explain the process that will take place.
5.2.1. The initial risk assessment visit (see appendix (iii) for form) The purpose of the visit is to check the accuracy of initial reports/complaints of an encampment, and to make an initial risk assessment.
The aim of the assessment is to gather basic information on the encampment:
Location and size, • Who owns the land, • Is the landowner aware or given consent, • past and intended future movement, • Anticipated length of stay • Reasons for the stay.
• Is there any damage to the land or its environment?
• Is there any litter or waste present and is this the result of the • encampment?
Are there any children on the site? Do they have welfare needs?
• Do any of the group have any heath or welfare needs?
• Are there any animals and what condition are they in?
• What is the likely impact on the local community – • unacceptable/significant or minimal?
Is there any need for them to leave immediately – why?
• What welfare issues are there in relation to sanitation?
• What is the attitude of those present i.e. co-operative / dismissive / • evasive / abusive / threatening Is the location suitable for habitation i.e. is there any environmental • issues such as a rising river etc are there dangers of passing traffic 5.2.2. Making a decision to ‘temporally allow’ or ‘not allow’ Once an initial risk assessment has been carried out a decision needs to be made regarding the site. Is it one that will be ‘temporally allowed’ or ‘not allowed’? The risk assessment should provide a good indication as to whether action is required or not and should be used as the basis for any decision made.
It may be necessary to negotiate a period of time after which the Travellers will leave, for the site to be ‘allowed’.
Attending officers should set out clearly what is expected of the Travellers. The code of conduct (appendix (v) should be discussed with those present, if appropriate. This is a useful tool in negotiating with those involved in the unauthorised encampment regarding their conduct whist at the site and whether the site is allowed or not allowed.
Consideration will be given to longer stays on the following grounds:
Medical, educational and welfare assessments, • special needs cases and • where the landowner permits.
• Where possible the needs of the group should be facilitated. It may be appropriate to involve Children’s services, Cumbria Traveller programme, or the PCT.
This decision to ‘allow’ or ‘not allow’ should not be made before consulting partner agencies and the local Neighbourhood Policing Team Inspector.
If the media are involved, there should be a joint media strategy to ensure the message to the community is consistent and factually correct.
5.3. If the decision is to ‘temporally to allow’ If the site is deemed as one which will be ‘temporally allowed’, there will be no need for the police to use any legislative powers concerning the site.
Cumbria Constabulary has a commitment to police all communities and this will be considered in deciding what monitoring and service provision should be made available.
There will need to be regular review/risk assessment of the site to ensure that conditions do not change. Regular visits should be made by both the local authority and police supervisors to engage with those present on the site and the landowner. Decisions should be made about whether there should be a more detailed ‘needs’ assessment. It is the responsibility of the District Council working in association with the Cumbria Travellers programme and any other agency recruited locally, to carry out a detailed needs assessment should this be necessary.
Rubbish: Local authority officers will discuss keeping the site clean and tidy and the disposal of household refuse as part of the agreement that a site is ‘allowed’.
If appropriate plastic sacks will be made available and arrangements • made for regular collection of bagged refuse. Regular removal of domestic refuse should deter tipping by members of the settled community.
Some groups of Gypsies and Travellers are willing to use skips for • domestic waste. Again, provision and removal may be cost-effective if the alternative is a build-up of refuse acting as a magnet for other fly tipping by members of the settled community. Local authorities will check that skips would be used before providing them and to seek to recover costs from the unauthorised campers.
Unauthorised campers need to realise that, under a pro-active approach to managing unauthorised encampments, failure to keep the site clean and tidy in breach of a Code of Expected Behaviour is likely to lead to rapid eviction.
Such a policy should be cost-effective in reducing the need to spend large sums on cleaning up.