Gypsy and Travellers
Most people in Devon know very little about Gypsy and Travellers. You may, for instance, be unaware that the population in Devon includes a significant number of Gypsy and Travellers – many of whom have long historical links with this part of the country.
The Devon population of Gypsy and Travellers comprises of mainly English Romany Gypsies, New Travellers and some Irish Travellers.
Further detailed information about Gypsy and Travellers can be found in our handbook for unauthorised encampments.
If you would like to report Gypsy and Travellers that are occupying land which doesn’t belong to them, you can do this here.
Although there are a number of authorised private sites in Devon, there is still a serious shortage of sites for Gypsy and Travellers both here in the county and across the country as a whole. This has led to Gypsy and Travellers camping on land that they do not own (unauthorised encampments), and a growing tendency to buy land and develop it without planning permission (unauthorised developments). At present, approximately one in five Gypsy and Traveller caravans in England are on unauthorised sites. 90% of planning applications that Gypsy and Travellers submit fail, which often forces them back onto the road with no fixed abode.
When Gypsy and Travellers 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 a situation. The enforcement powers available can be found in the Resources and Information section.
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:
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 here:
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
- Planning Policy for Travellers Sites
Government policy in relation to Traveller Sites
Webpage giving contact details for Devon
Organisation giving information and working on behalf of Gypsy Travellers
The Travellers’ Times website brings you the latest news, features & information for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people
Leeds GATE is a members organisation for Gypsy and Traveller people
The Travellers Advice Team (TAT) at Community Law Partnership provides advice, assistance and representation to Gypsies and Travellers throughout England and Wales
Health booklet made by Romany Women in Devon
List of powers available to deal with unauthorised encampments
Devon County Council Resources and Reports
- Gypsy and Travellers Planning Policy and the approach of Devon local authorities
- Heatwave leaflet
- Racism towards Gypsy Travellers – snapshot in Devon 2013
- Rights and responsibilities – information for landlords and tenants on private Gypsy and Traveller sites
If you have any questions or queries on a particular issue then please contact us:
Tel: 0345 155 1015 or 0845 155 1015
Elim Housing is the County Council’s agent for overall management for the two GT Local Authority sites: Sowton, Exeter and Broadclyst, East Devon.
Sowton, which has been in existence for over forty 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. No new pitches are available at this site.
Residents on both sites pay rent and are responsible for paying council tax and utility costs.
If you are interested in applying for a pitch at the Sowton site:
Download an Elim Application Form ?
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.