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When Travellers Set Up Camp on Farm Land

View profile for Andrew Morley
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With the UK’s nearly 280,000 farms boasting a combined land mass of some 20 million hectares, it is perhaps no surprise that illegal encampments spring up on farm land with growing regularity. These can cause disruption and conflict locally and, of course, for the farmer his/her means of earning a living is a stake; fields are a farmer’s workplace just as much as a factory, shop floor or office.

While those of us cooped up inside for much of our working lives may occasionally toy with a romantic notion of the freedom of the open road and setting up temporary home wherever the moods takes us, the reality is far less poetic. That was the experience of a Wolds farmer in 2015 whose plight was widely reported locally and nationally. A peaceful meadow had overnight become home to an illegal camp of travellers and in just three weeks the land was decimated and left strewn with rubble and litter. The repair bill was said to run to over £10,000. It is the landowner’s responsibility to remove fly-tipped waste and dispose of this legally.

As if farmers didn’t have enough to worry about post Brexit, these incidents of illegal encampments are only going to increase. Lincolnshire is very much a hotspot for this activity with its many fields, sparse population and presenting a route to the coast.

These are no longer the random small groups of gypsies some of us may remember from yesteryear. Organisations such as the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups now exist to campaign and promote the claimed right to pursue a nomadic way of life. Movement of groups around the countryside can sometimes be co-ordinated meaning that a small group chancing across an open gate and a tempting field only has to make a few mobile telephone calls and suddenly dozens of caravans descend into the area. 

The key in these cases is for the landowner or person with the legal right to occupy this (i.e. the tenant farmer) to move quickly and decisively. Chattertons solicitors has many years’ experience in these cases and a proven track record for evicting travellers. We can have papers issued in one of the local County Courts and we have specialists on hand to facilitate personal service on site. Usually little more than 48 hours after that a Court Order for possession can be secured from a Judge and served the same day. This will usually require the “persons unknown” to leave immediately. Travellers often leave at this stage but if not we can advise on the actual eviction.

Andrew Morley provides dispute resolution, litigation and debt recovery services from our Lincoln office.