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Unauthorised camp sites

There are more Gypsy and Traveller caravans in use in the UK than there are legal places for them to stop.

Some unauthorised camping may be tolerated for a defined period. In these cases the campers will asked to follow the council’s Code of Conduct for Caravan Occupiers.

There are locations where encampment is not acceptable at all. These are listed in the Code of Conduct.

Council officers must consider:

  • public health risks
  • serious damage to the environment
  • genuine nuisance to neighbours
  • traffic hazards
  • close to other sensitive land-uses

The council's unauthorised camp sites policy [pdf document] explains how decisions are made. The aim is to balance the rights of both the settled and travelling community.

In Darlington, unauthorised camp sites are investigated by Community Safety. Travellers will be asked about their family health, welfare, education and accommodation. Officers will also ask health visitors and education staff for their professional opinion.

The welfare needs of unauthorised campers are taken into account when deciding whether to evict a site or to allow them to stay longer.
This is not an open-ended 'right' to stay as long as they want in an area.
For example, a pregnant woman or school age children does not mean a camp site can stay long term.

Every case is treated on its own merits. If an eviction is delayed then it will be looked at regularly.

In all cases a camp site will be allowed to say only if there is suitable drinking water, toilets and collection of waste. The cost of these services must be paid by the traveller.

If there is a suitable pitch available on a caravan site in Darlington the council may ask the police to use their powers under Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 [external link] to tell travellers to leave. They must remove any vehicles and other property.   

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