Gypsies and Travellers in Devon


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Gypsies and Travellers in Devon

Most people in Devon know very little about Gypsies and Travellers. You may, for instance, be unaware that the population in Devon includes a significant number of Gypsies and Travellers - many of whom have long historical links with this part of the country.

The Devon population of Gypsies and Travellers comprises of mainly English Romany Gypsies, New Travellers and some Irish Travellers.

Find out more about the History of Gypsies and Travellers and their definitions.


Authorised Encampments

The County Council has overall management for the two Gypsy and Traveller Local Authority sites: Sowton and Broadclyst.

Sowton, which has been in existence for over 30 years, consists of 11 pitches, offering permanent residential accommodation.

Broadclyst consists of 5 permanent residential pitches and is slightly different in that the land is owned by The National trust.  

Residents on both sites pay rent and are responsible for paying council tax and utility costs.

View the Allocations Policy for the Sowton site image - PDF icon (93KB - pdf help) and download an application form.

No new residents will be permitted on the Broadclyst site due to ownership.


Unauthorised Encampments

Although there are a number of authorised private sites in Devon there is still a serious shortage of sites for Gypsies and Travellers both here in the county and across the country as a whole. This has led to Gypsies and Travellers camping on land that they do not own (unauthorised encampments), and also a growing tendency to buy land and develop it without planning permission (unauthorised developments). At present, approximately one in five Traveller caravans in England are on a unauthorised sites. 90% of planning applications that Gypsies and Travellers submit fail, which often forces them back onto the road with no fixed abode.

When Gypsies/Travellers camp on land that they do not own, without the permission of the owner, they are trespassing. If a negotiated solution is not possible, then private landowners, Local Authorities and the Police all have powers of enforcement to evict. However, a negotiated solution that avoids confrontation is often the most appropriate way of dealing with a situation.

Unauthorised encampments fall into 2 main categories: those on land owned by Local Authorities (highways, schools, public parks and car-parks etc), and those on privately owned land.

Find out more about our approach to managing unauthorised encampments:


Gypsies & Travellers Liaison Service

Devon County Council has a dedicated Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Service which provides support and advice to both the settled and travelling community on a broad range of issues, including management of unauthorised encampments. To find out more about the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Service see the Service Reports:

If you have any questions or queries on a particular issue then please contact:

My Devon - Tel: 0345 155 1015 or email:

Frequently asked questions and useful contacts

For further information on Gypsies and Travellers, see our frequently asked questions, useful contacts and publications page.