Gypsies and Travellers
Most people in Devon know very little about Gypsies and Travellers (GTs). You may, for instance, be unaware that the population in Devon includes a significant number of GTs – many of whom have long historical links with this part of the country.
The Devon population of GTs comprises of mainly English Romany Gypsies, New Travellers and some Irish Travellers.
Further detailed information about GTs can be found in our handbook for unauthorised encampments.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to report GTs who are occupying land that doesn’t belong to them. Please include location, number of caravans (if known), number of people (if known), whether other agencies have been contacted (police or district council), and any additional details in your email. Please note, Devon County Council (DCC) will only get involved if the encampment is on DCC owned and maintained land.
Although there are a number of authorised private sites in Devon, there is still a serious shortage of sites for GTs both here in the county and across the country as a whole. This has led to GTs camping on land that they do not own (unauthorised encampments), or at times develop land without planning permission (unauthorised developments). At present, approximately one in five GT caravans in England are on unauthorised sites. 90% of planning applications that GTs submit fail, which often forces them back onto the road with no fixed abode.
When GTs camp on land that they do not own, without the permission of the owner, they are trespassing; this is a civil matter and is not a criminal offence, hence the term ‘unauthorised encampment’ instead of ‘illegal encampment’.
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 situations of unauthorised camping. The enforcement powers available to local and public authorities and private landowners can be found in the Resources and Information section.
Unauthorised encampments fall into two main categories:
- Those on land owned by local authorities (highways, schools, public parks and car-parks etc)
- Those on privately owned land
Find out more about our approach to managing unauthorised encampments:
The process of managing unauthorised encampments means that Devon County Council will collect information in accordance with data protection legislation. The forms we might use to collect information are listed at the end of the handbook.
Resources and Information
The following links have been compiled as a resource for both the Travelling community and the settled community.
- Teignbridge District Council Gypsy Travellers
- Mid Devon District Council – Gypsy Travellers
- Plymouth City Council Gypsy Travellers
- Commons Library resources and information, including planning provision
- Government planning policy in relation to Traveller sites
- Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) Devon – Traveller education contact information
- Friends, Families and Travellers – working on behalf of GTs to provide information and tackle discrimination
- The Travellers’ Times website brings you the latest news and information for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people
- Leeds GATE is a members organisation for Gypsy and Traveller people
- The Travellers Advice Team (TAT) at The Community Law Partnership provides advice, assistance and representation to Gypsies and Travellers throughout England and Wales
- A list of powers available to local authorities and private landowners to deal with unauthorised encampments is available on the government website.
Elim Housing is the County Council’s agent for overall management for the two GT Local Authority sites: Sowton (Exeter) and Broadclyst (East Devon).
The site at Sowton, which has been in existence for over forty years, consists of 11 pitches, offering permanent residential accommodation.
The Broadclyst site 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.
Elim Housing is your first point of contact in relation to any queries about either site, including submitting application forms. Please note that there is a waiting list for this site.
If you have any questions or queries on a particular issue then please contact us: