Public Spaces Injunction - illegal/unauthorised encampment and fly-tipping

On 6 March 2019 the High Court granted an interim order lasting two months with a further court date of 20 May 2019, for a further hearing for a full injunction lasting three years.

The interim order forbids person(s) unknown intending to possess or occupy land.

Application to vary or discharge this order

Any person who is presently a person(s) unknown (or any person notified of this order) and who wishes to identify themselves and be joined as a named defendant to this claim may apply to the court to be joined on 72 hours notice to the court and to claimant to vary or discharge this order (or part of it).

The order applies to any land identified on the Maps 1 - 2 at sites numbered 1 to 218 (being parks, open spaces and car parks on Maps 1 & 2) and housing estates and car parks on Map 3 numbered 1 to 145 on the spreadsheet references Court Injunction Support Sheet, without the written permission from the planning authority of the London Borough of Wandsworth, or, planning permission granted by a planning inspector; Entering and/or occupying any part of the Land identified on the spreadsheet reference Court Injunction Support Sheet for residential purposes (temporary or otherwise) including caravans, mobile homes, vehicles and residential paraphernalia; Bringing on to the land identified on the maps 1 - 2 at sites numbered 1 to 218 (being parks, open spaces and car parks on Maps 1 & 2) and housing estates and car parks on Map 3 numbered 1 to 145 or stationing on the land any caravans/mobile homes other than if driving through the London Borough of Wandsworth or in compliance with the Parking Orders regulating the use of car parks/highways or with express permission from the owners of the Land.

The land in this order means all land within or in possession and control of the London Borough of Wandsworth on the maps 1 - 2 at sites numbered 1 to 218 (being parks, open spaces and car parks on Maps 1 & 2) and housing estates and car parks on Map 3 numbered 1 to 145 being land owned by the London Borough of Wandsworth. All maps are accessed via the links below.

The interim injunction order contains a Penal Notice which means anyone breaching it may be held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned, fined or have their assets seized. The interim injunction order remains in force until midnight on 20 May 2019. The interim order will be posted at all entrances to the relevant sites identified, in compliance with the interim order. The application for a final injunction will also include provision to prohibit fly-tipping and the depositing of waste on public land.

The interim order, claim form, application and evidence in support can be accessed and downloaded below.

Questions and answers

What should I do if I see people pulling onto a council owned site such as a park or car park?

Please report the sighting to us immediately - we will then work with the police to investigate. Please call the Council’s switchboard line: 020 8871 6000.

Provide as much information as possible, including information like the name of the site, the number of vehicles and registration numbers. Don't approach or confront them - just let us know what you have seen.

What action will the council and police take?

If an unauthorised encampment is on council land, we have the power (but not a duty) to move them on and may only evict them subject to complying with human rights legislation and other procedures. Failure to comply would render the council and police officers liable to challenge in the courts, potentially proving costly and quite probably resulting in a lengthy stay for the encampment.

The police will go to the site to establish the number of vehicles, the names of those present and whether any criminal offences have been committed. An assessment will be made as to whether police powers should be used, however trespass is not a criminal offence - it's a civil matter. The police may not be able to take immediate action or make the group move.

If the police can't use their powers to move them on, the council will start the process to arrange removal, which takes between two to five working days. The council has a number of legal requirements it must fulfil before this, including checking the health and welfare needs of those on the site. 

A decision is then made by the council as to whether those on the site should have further welfare arrangements made, and stay on site until this happens, or if they can be told to move on. If it is appropriate to move the group on, the council will serve enforcement notices which will specify a time by which they must leave.

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What action is taken if the encampment is on private land?

If an unauthorised encampment is on private land it is primarily the landowners' responsibility to deal with the eviction. The council will offer advice if asked by the landowner. The police will of course tackle all reports of crime (but not trespass) when they are reported.

What happens if they do not move on as directed?

The council will then instruct bailiffs to enforce the notice, using any reasonable means including towing the vehicles. The police will also attend to prevent a breach of the peace and to ensure bailiffs can carry out the council's instructions

Will the police or council prosecute if the law is broken during an unauthorised encampment?

Anyone found committing a crime will be challenged and prosecuted. Police action will be based on proof and needs to be beyond reasonable doubt. The police will need witnesses to the criminal activity, please let the police know if you are willing to make a statement and attend court. If you witness racist, unlawful and/or antisocial behaviour, report it to the police by calling 101, or you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If it is an emergency dial 999.

I have seen someone fly-tipping on the site, what should I do?

If you see anyone fly-tipping, please tell us or the police immediately. Try to note down the registration number of any vehicles involved.

If the fly-tipping is in progress, the police can take action as this is a criminal activity. If objects have already been fly-tipped, the council will investigate and arrange to clear it.

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Who will tidy up the site after the unauthorised encampment?

The council will arrange to clear the site. Depending on the type and amount of material that has been left, this may take a few hours or several days.

What can be done to stop further illegal encampments?

The council can put physical measures in place such as barriers and bollards at vulnerable sites to make it difficult to gain access. However, it's very difficult to secure all access points, especially when those involved are prepared to cause criminal damage to gain entry.

How can I find out what action the council is taking to deal with an unauthorised encampment?

You can call our switchboard line: 020 8871 6000, who will have the latest update on any illegal encampment.

Race equality considerations

Race relations legislation recognises Gypsies and Travellers as specific racial groups, i.e. Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers, and those other Gypsies and Travellers who are of ethnic or national origin and come within the definition of a racial group within the legislation, e.g. Scottish Travellers. The legislation places a duty on public authorities, including the council, to promote race equality.

We employ staff who are trained to act as Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officers, and these staff members are responsible for identifying and considering the welfare needs of Gypsies and Travellers. You can contact our Traveller Liaison team by email parkspolice@wandsworth.gov.uk, or by phone on 07500 959 442.

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What about Gypsies/Travellers who buy their own land and set up home on that?

Gypsies and Travellers need to gain planning consent for such a site just like anyone else. If they do not then the site is classed as an unauthorised development and the local planning authority will deal with it under the normal planning powers available to it.

What if a landowner is content to allow an unauthorised encampment to remain temporarily?

Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission or is a farmer and the encampers are, for example, helping with harvesting crops, the landowner could be in breach of planning law and the laws dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.

What can I do if I want to protect my land from unauthorised encampments?

Trespass on land is a civil matter and prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner. If you don't want to tolerate encampments for short periods of time, you may wish to consider a) whether any physical steps may be taken to prevent access to your land and b) if you or your solicitor can go to a county court and obtain an order granting you possession of your land.

What if the landowner will not take action to remove encampers?

If the landowner will not take appropriate action to remove the encampers and is in breach of any planning or licence requirements, the local planning authority may take action against the landowner to require the removal of the caravans. Court action would likely follow if the landowner does not comply.

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Find out more

You can find out more by visiting Her Majesty's Courts Service, and can seek advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau.