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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We would like to reassure you that we are closely monitoring the situation and working with the government and NHS. For guidance on Coronavirus and the latest information on the situation, visit Devon County Council’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice page.

To find out what support is available in your local community, visit our Community Support Group page.

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.

Unauthorised Encampments

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.   

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 

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

Tel: 0345 155 1015 or 0845 155 1015

Authorised Encampments

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: 

Allocations policy for 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.