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Gypsy and Traveller Services

Our Traveller Services team are responsible for the management of two permanent Traveller sites based at Cottingley Springs.

The service also deals with all encampments within the Leeds boundary.

If you have an enquiry about either Cottingley Springs or an encampment in your area then please contact the team on 0113 247 5493.

Who are the gypsies and travellers of Britain?

Romany gypsies are the largest minority ethnic group among the traveling communities in Britain, whose ancestors migrated from India some 500 years ago.

Travellers of Irish heritage do not necessarily come immediately from Ireland, and may visit Ireland infrequently and for short periods only. It is thought that many Irish travellers are descendants of people who lost their land during the potato famine in the mid nineteenth century.

New travellers are a community of more recent origin. They have adopted this way of life for a variety of reasons, such as homelessness, unemployment or environmental issues.

Why do gypsies and travellers have a different way of life to the settled community?

Like other minority ethnic groups gypsies and travellers have their own language, culture and traditions. These are passed down through the family. Cultural values are strong and the extended family is highly valued.

When they live in houses, do gypsies and travellers stop being gypsies and travellers?

No. gypsies and travellers that move into houses do not lose their culture or ethnic status. Many move into houses for health reasons, or to give their children an education. Many will still travel in the summer months, even if they are based in a house.

Why do gypsies and travellers set up sites without permission?

The lack of public sites and the difficulties gypsies and travellers have in setting up their own sites has often left them without the ability to access their basic rights to accommodation. Ninety percent of planning applications that gypsies and travellers submit fail, which often forces them back on the road, with no fixed address.

Why do gypsies and travellers pull up so near to the settled community?

Like the settled community, gypsies and travellers need access to services. They may want to be near a school or shop or petrol station to access water and food. Many of the traditional stopping places that gypsies and travellers have used for decades have now disappeared because of urban expansion.

Why don’t gypsies and travellers just live in houses?

Some do. Some will move into housing for health reasons, or because they want their children to have regular access to education. However for some families it doesn’t work; they feel isolated from their community, and often feel claustrophobic or hemmed in, inside four walls. Once living in housing, gypsies and travellers don’t cease to be gypsies and travellers, they continue their culture and traditions within the home.

What happens if the court gives an order for travellers to leave and they do not go?

The landowner then has to apply for a warrant from the court. If this is granted, court bailiffs then take action to move the traveller encampments on.

How long does it take bailiffs to act when gypsies and travellers set up sites without permission?

This depends on the court diary and when the bailiffs are free to carry out the action.

Can the court refuse to give an order to move the travellers on?

Yes. The court may refuse if there is an unavoidable reason for the travellers to stay on the site.

How long does a court order last to move the travellers on?

Three months, provided a warrant has been executed by court bailiffs, and is effective to the travellers that were on the camp, when the order was obtained. If travellers return within three months, the landowner can apply for another warrant. If a new group arrives, then the process will start again.

Why can’t the police move travellers on?

The police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example where the gypsies or travellers have six or more vehicles parked on the encampment), officers may use powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder, where normal criminal legislation cannot be applied, andwhere occupation of the land is a relevant factor.

The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using section 61 in circumstances where it would prevent welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespassing on land is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the police. The police will investigate all criminal and public order offences.

Why can’t travellers buy their own land?

Many travellers have bought land to live on, but they often find it difficult to get the planning permission to stay there.

Who is responsible for cleaning up after travellers have gone?

This is the landowner's responsibility. If it is public land, Leeds City Council will clean and secure the area.

Do traveller's children attend school?

Yes. In Leeds, the local education authority has a Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service (GRTAS). They provide support and assistance to get children into nearby mainstream schools for the period of their stay.

What is the difference between travellers and gypsies?

The law defines the term Gypsy as 'a person who follows a nomadic lifestyle, regardless of race or origin, and who travels to earn a living'.  Persons of Roma heritage usually use the term Gypsy.
Nomadic persons of Irish origin use the term Traveller. Both Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised ethnic minorities under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000.

Why do gypsies and travellers adopt a nomadic lifestyle?

Their lifestyle involves travelling the country and residing in various locations for as long as they are able, in order to earn a living. Gypsies and travellers have lived this way for generations.

Is it the council's responsibility to move travellers when they are camped without permission?

No. Only if gypsies and travellers are camped on council land can the council evict them. If gypsies or travellers are camped on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility to move them.

If gypsies or travellers are camped on private land, what is the procedure for the landowner?

Firstly you would speak to them rationally, and try to negotiate a leaving date.

Next, take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a court order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing.

Finally, ensure that the land is cleaned and secured following an encampment.

What if the landowner decides to let gypsies or travellers stay on the land temporarily?

The landowner could be in breach of the planning acts and the acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites, unless
(a) the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or
(b) the landowner is a farmer and the gypsies or travellers are helping with farming duties.

If a landowner fails to take appropriate action to remove gypsies or travellers, what will the council do?

If the gypsies or travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as possible. The council will consider the individual circumstances involved in each case. However, in all cases the site will be visited regularly and every effort made to ensure that the gypsies or travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. Occasionally refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.

Can the council remove gypsies/travellers from their land immediately?

No, the council must adopt the following procedure:

Visit the site within 24 hours where possible.

Prove that the gypsies/travellers are camped on the land without consent.

Carry out a welfare assessment, take into account certain factors before they proceed to court for a possession order and consider every encampment on its individual merits.

Decide if a tolerated period of occupation is necessary, where appropriate advise all key partner agencies.

After this period has expired, if the travellers are still in occupation without a valid reason the council will apply to the County Court for a possession order of the land.

If no period of toleration is required, proceed to court for a possession order.

The travellers are then served with a notice and informed of the court hearing, giving them the opportunity to attend and speak to the judge stating reasons why the Order should not be made.

If no representations are made the judge will make an Order taking into account the that the welfare assessment has been carried out.

The court bailiffs will inform the travellers of the date they must leave the land.

If the land is not vacated the bailiffs will carry out the eviction process.