Unauthorised encampments

Unauthorised camping is not a criminal offence. Trespass is a civil offence, giving land owners and local authorities the right to repossess their property using the due process of law.

The council’s Community Safety Team is responsible for leading on the legal process to evict unauthorised encampments on council owned land. Officers will work with the council’s legal team and Thames Valley Police to ensure that the right course of action is taken to remove an encampment.

Current unauthorised encampments in Reading:

Updated 30 November 2021

We are aware of an encampment at Imperial Way. We will visit this site on 1 December. There is some doubt that this encampment is on Reading Borough Council land. We have put in a land registry request to establish this. If we are not responsible for the land we will make every effort to contact the landowner.

We are aware that there is an encampment at Thames Promenade. This site has been visited, assessed and initial legal notice to leave issued. At this time we are not able to give a date for the end of the encampment.

The council’s approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments on council owned land.

The council is unable to move travellers on straight away and must:

  • Show that the travellers are on land without consent
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children’s education
  • Ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with

Officers from the Community Safety team aim to visit a new unauthorised encampment within 1 working day of it arriving to carry out an assessment of the site, welfare checks and advise the occupants they are trespassing and ask them to leave.

Once the initial site visit is completed, officers prepare an assessment and evidence, which is reviewed to determine the most appropriate action to take to remove the encampment, which may include a request to the police to use the powers available to them, however, in most cases, officers will pass the assessment and evidence to the council’s legal team, who will prepare an application to either the County Court or Magistrates Court for a hearing to repossess the land.

How quickly the hearing can be listed will depend on available space at court. At this time, a County Court hearing may not be scheduled for up to 10 weeks following receipt of an application due to a backlog of other cases usually heard at the court being put on hold as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic (Summer 2021). There may be further delays to moving an encampment on if there are welfare concerns for those occupying the land which need attention.

If the court grants the council possession, the council will use bailiffs to enforce the order.

Advice for private landowners

If an encampment arrives on privately owned land, it is the land owner’s responsibility to take the necessary action to evict the encampment. The landowner can attempt to agree a leaving date with the occupants or take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction.

Reporting an unauthorised encampment on council owned land

Report an unauthorised encampment or any issues associated with an encampment to Reading Borough Council’s Community Safety Team via our Call Centre on 0118 937 3787 or email: gypsyandtravellerteam@reading.gov.uk

Any crime or disorder associated with an encampment should be reported to Thames Valley Police using 101 or Thames Valley Police website.

Guidance on unauthorised encampments