Illegal occupation of land by travellers

The responsibility for taking enforcement action lies primarily with the owner of the land concerned. We only have responsibility for our own land and currently, along with other local authorities in West Sussex, we have an agreement with West Sussex County Council (WSCC) whereby the county council undertakes the appropriate steps, including any legal proceedings, to evict any travellers or gypsies from illegally occupying their land. 

Travellers are unlikely to live in tents. Where tents are found they may be occupied by the homeless or are just in use for the day by children or day-trippers. Tents erected on our parks or land should be reported directly to our parks department. If the land belongs to West Sussex County Council it should be reported to them directly. If tents are located on private land they should be reported to the landowner.

In some circumstances the police will assist in moving travellers and gypsies on from a site using powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994: Public Order: Collective Trespass or Nuisance on Land: Section 61 and Sections 62A,62B and 62C; and in some circumstances the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and this will be done through liaison with the police and the county and district councils.

Not every piece of legislation is applicable or appropriate in every situation and each occurrence is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Further information can be found on the unauthorised encampments government website page.

Roadsides and lay-bys

Gypsies and travellers seen at the side of the road, in a lay-by or parked on the edge of the road/verge are probably on West Sussex County Council Highways land and you should advise the county council directly, who will then investigate and take the appropriate legal actions to move them on. This also applies to mobile homes parked on the highway where people are staying in them overnight as again, we have no control over highway land or roads. Please use West Sussex County Council's form to report such incidences.

Fields or open spaces

If you see gypsies or travellers parked in a private field or open space it is very likely that they do not have the landowner's permission and the landowner will need to take the appropriate legal action through the courts to regain possession of the land. Unfortunately where private land is involved we are unable to take any action.

Car parks

If you see gypsies or travellers occupying a council-owned car park you should contact the relevant authority; this will either be West Sussex County Council or Arun District Council. 

Circuses and funfairs

Circuses and funfairs often park up at the side of the road or on adjacent verges overnight or whilst travelling between their agreed sites. Usually these vehicles (often in a convoy) will only be present overnight or for a short time and there is no need to advise us or the county council of their presence.

Also, once at their agreed site there is no need to advise us as the site will already have been agreed by the council and will usually have been well advertised to the public.

Designated pitches

We are required by the government to provide a number of sites to meet the housing needs of gypsies, travellers and travelling show people. Within West Sussex, there are currently around 130 pitches for Travellers at 12 sites, which is more than many counties in England and considered to be a sufficient contribution to national provision. Within Arun, there is a residential site at Ryebank between Yapton and Middleton-on-Sea. The maintenance and running of the site is the responsibility of West Sussex County Council. In addition, there is one transit site provided near Chichester where travellers will be directed by the police and/or county council if they illegally occupy any district or borough council land within West Sussex.


To report an illegal encampment on our land contact . Please note that this is only for the reporting of the presence of travellers or gypsies on council-owned land and is not for discussion or provision of information regarding traveller and gypsy procedures, legislation or protocol, either at national or local level. It may not be possible in every instance to acknowledge receipt of a report; however, the information will be recorded and action taken as appropriate to the circumstances.

If you witness criminal damage or criminal behaviour taking place by travellers you should report this to Sussex Police.

We recognise and accept that all members of the community have the right under the law to be protected from nuisance, harassment, discrimination and harm from others and that this right applies equally to travellers and the settled community. We also recognise that people seek to meet their housing needs by a variety of ways, including living in vehicles, but that the supply of authorised sites on which to put those vehicles in Sussex is considerable and accessible. In addition, there are opportunities for temporary encampment for genuine travellers in locations which can cause minimum disruption to other communities.

The policies and procedures above apply only where we are seeking possession of our own land. Every unauthorised encampment will be considered in relation to its individual circumstances as set out in our policy and including the size and location of the site, the size of the encampment, the needs of travellers and those of the settled community affected by the encampment. 

Advice for private landowners

The responsibility for taking enforcement action lies with the owner of the land concerned. Landowners are expected to take reasonable precautions to prevent illegal encampments. Unless a landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the gypsies/travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.

If a landowner is in breach of any planning or license requirements, then the authority will take proceedings against the landowner to require removal of the illegal encampment.

Landowners can talk to the gypsies/travellers to see if a leaving date can be agreed. If a leaving date cannot be agreed they will need to take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for the gypsies' or travellers' eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing. To get details of court proceedings contact:

Chichester County Court
West Sussex
PO19 1SX

Telephone: 01243 520700
Fax: 01243 533756