No one seems to know when and how a group of travellers in 18 caravans arrived and set up shop at the car park beside the Prince of Wales Stadium in Cheltenham. They seem to be sitting pretty with a generator providing power after having taken up much space off the parking area around Prince Regent Avenue.
There was no one available representing local authority (Leisure at Cheltenham) to provide useful information on the supposed occupation.
Last week as well, a group of campers was seen at Borough Council’s depot in Swindon road within Cheltenham. It is suspected these may be the same campers since the council issued marching orders for their move on and some of the vehicles look familiar. The authorities of Cheltenham Racecourse about two miles away also ran eviction proceedings on another group of travellers to leave its land.
Why set up encampments?
Encampments are set up on Council land for the following reasons:
Lifestyle: The nomadic or traditional lifestyle of certain people such as Gypsies or vacationers
Work: Individuals travel seasonally to carry out job tasks like construction and landscape gardening.
Implications of encampments
Source of concern to nearby residents from the noise, safety or environmental issues they present. The Council itself has to handle clean up exercises.
Code of unauthorised encampment
There is a code of unauthorised encampment which basically is the management of illegal encampments. The code has conduct factors like number of caravans for entry, no damage to property, previous encampment records and behaviour, land impact, minimum distance between encampments, no dumping of rubbish, no fires, site safety and departure of squatters.
What the law states
In relation to unauthorised encampments, Sections 61, 62 and 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 are the most appropriate legal power acts.
Section 77: Local authorities are empowered to instruct people living in vehicles including caravans to leave the land they occupy without the Council’s approval. Refusal may mean getting an order from the magistrate’s court for the removal of the individuals and vehicles.
Sections 61 and 62: The Police have discretionary powers to inform individuals encamping illegally to exit a place and forcefully remove caravans with occupants.
Living a nomadic lifestyle is not illegal.
However, the caravans and squatters at Cheltenham did not follow the required code of encampment legally. The local authorities did not know about their entry, numbers, mission and objective.