Unauthorised encampments on council owned land
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2. Dealing with unauthorised encampments
If people camp on land they do not own or have permission to camp on, this is called an unauthorised encampment.
The Council works extremely hard to address unauthorised encampments as swiftly as possible when they arise and has effective processes in place to deal with them, liaising with the police as necessary.
Once we become aware of an unauthorised encampment on council land, our Joint Enforcement Team (JET) will visit as soon as possible, to carry out the legally required welfare checks of the occupants. If there are no welfare issues, the occupants are asked to leave voluntarily.
The next step is to complete a Section 77 Notice of Direction to Leave which is served by JET officers as soon as is practicable. Should the Notice not be complied with, the legal process is started to obtain a court order to remove the encampment, (the timescale for this is largely dependent on the courts).
A hearing is held at a magistrates’ court and they will decide whether to grant an order. If successful, the Council will then remove the encampment from the land with the assistance of bailiffs.
The Council has recently secured a temporary Injunction Order to protect our land and speed up the process for removal of unauthorised encampments.
Under certain circumstances the police can use powers under Sections 61 and 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to remove trespassers and their vehicles. It is for the police to decide if these powers should be used, and they can usually only be invoked under certain circumstances when there is significant impact on the local community.
You can find out more about the police’s powers on Surrey Police’s website.