Unauthorised encampment toolkit
Local authorities used to have a legal duty to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers. In 1994 this obligation was removed following the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and as a result, and along with a change in the use of land and more land being identified for housing, subsequently site provision to accommodate the roadside GRT communities is limited. The lack of permanent and transit sites throughout the country has forced Travellers to camp wherever they can. The main groups that set up encampments in Cambridgeshire include English Gypsies, Irish Travellers and occasionally New Age Travellers. Cambridgeshire has an ideal geographical location and historically an extensive source of occasional work such as manual labour in factories and warehouses, tree lopping, tarmac laying and general garden work. In addition, many of the Travellers have members of their family in permanent housing in the County. The traditional links with agriculture and the countryside have changed over the last 40 years, bringing Travellers closer to the ‘settled’ community. This toolkit has been created with a view to helping parishes that might experience the arrival of such an encampment.
What is the toolkit?
The Toolkit is made up of 5 elements:
- Cultural Awareness training
- Information videos
- Toolkit templates
- Advice, guidance and templates
Why this toolkit?
South Cambridgeshire Community Safety Partnership has been provided funding by the Police and Crime commissioner to improve community resilience and support vulnerable people in our communities. Some of this funding is being used to produce advice and guidance for communities and some of the funding is being distributed as microgrants direct to the community.
The concept of this toolkit was born out of series of encampments that arrived in South Cambridgeshire in 2018. Most notably two specific encampments:
It was clearly evident from community feedback that throughout the duration of the encampment community leaders were unaware of where responsibility for the various aspects of the encampment lay. They had not experienced this situation before and felt unprepared.
Following that situation another Rural South Cambs village made national press when another similar sized encampment arrived on privately owned land and, again, from the outset it was unclear to community leaders how they could help manage the situation.
We have taken learning from those two scenarios and feedback from local district councillors and residents to draw together this working document to assist both the settled and GRT communities to reach amicable solutions before invoking the enforcement option.
This toolkit is not about enforcement. Nor is it about replacing enforcement. Ideally the arrival of an encampment would illicit minimal community tension.
This toolkit aims to smooth the way for the arrival of an encampment by focussing on planning, education and communication.
Good planning, increased understanding, and the ability to have an honest open and informed dialogue about encampments with your communities is key to reducing tension and ensuring that those who need assistance can access the relevant services.
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