Guidelines for Managing Unauthorised Camping by Gypsies/Travellers Consultation Paper
GUIDELINES FOR MANAGING UNAUTHORISED CAMPING BY GYPSIES/TRAVELLERS
CHAPTER 2 DEVELOPING A STRATEGY FOR UNAUTHORISED CAMPING
- In order to take effective, appropriate and proportionate action where there is unauthorised camping, local authorities and the local police force need to be clear on their strategy and protocol, on who will take the lead and who else will be involved. The strategy must be developed with the involvement of all key stakeholders and must seek to balance the rights and responsibilities of the Gypsy/Traveller and settled communities.
- The suggested stages involved in developing a strategy are: evidence gathering; setting the aims and objectives; formulating the strategy; consulting with stakeholders and making any necessary adjustments to the strategy; implementation; allocating resources; communicating the strategy to all relevant stakeholders and communities; and monitoring/evaluating its effectiveness.
- This could cover assessing existing provision; assessing needs; identifying gaps in provision; information on the incidence of unauthorised camping in the area; numbers involved; seasonality and; checking records of issues and problems.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
- The key objectives in having a strategy for unauthorised encampments might well include the following (although each local strategy will have its own objectives):
- Being able to plan ahead to minimise problems and to avoid the need to respond on a crisis basis (information from the evidence gathering stage could assist here)
- Ensuring that the needs and legitimate expectations of all parties are considered
- Setting a framework within in which clear, consistent and appropriate decisions can be made in a transparent manner
- Ensuring a fit with relevant legislation
- Linking the approach to unauthorised camping to other strategies and policies that affect Gypsies/Travellers (not just housing and the provision of sites/stopping places, but also health, education and anti-social behaviour)
- Involving all those with an interest in developing and implementing the strategy
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities of public bodies, stakeholders and communities
- Ensuring that the policies and approaches reflect the human rights of both the settled and travelling communities
- Ensuring the prevention of anti-social behaviour, regardless of who the perpetrator are, and effective enforcement against perpetrators
FORMULATING THE STRATEGY
- Local authorities should take the lead role in formulating the strategy and have responsibility for monitoring its implementation, ensuring that the process is driven forward. The process of producing the strategy involves a number of key stages and these might include:
- Appoint lead officer
- Set up a strategy working group, with adequate support/resources and ensuring liaison with other services
- Ensure key players are involved in the strategy working group (see Annex C for stakeholders who might be involved)
- Set up consultation procedures/mechanisms
- Ensure consistency with other strategies
- Review information from evidence gathering stage on the assessment of needs, existing provision and gaps in services/provision
- Plan new services/improve existing ones, through joint working
- Implement programme
Box 2: we would be interested to hear about examples of good practice in setting up a well-resourced, inclusive working group
ELEMENTS FOR INCLUSION IN THE STRATEGY
- There are a number of elements that could be included in the strategy and these are set out in more detail in the following paragraphs:
- legislative background (see Annex B for a summary)
- local information on which strategy is based
- protocols for sharing information, subject to compliance with data protection legislation
- approach to be taken on site provision (permanent sites and short-stay stopping places)
- policy to be followed when unauthorised camping takes place, setting out alternative courses of action and the circumstances that determine that action (see Chapter 3)
- working arrangements and protocols for the involvement of different agencies
- resources/best value
- arrangement for communicating and consulting on the strategy
- arrangements for monitoring the strategy
- involvement of other local authority services, to ensure a holistic approach
- protocols with neighbouring authorities regarding notification of 'moving on' of unauthorised encampments
- The starting point for a local strategy should include information on the characteristics of Gypsies/Travellers who reside in or are likely to travel through an area. This might include information on numbers, travelling patterns, accommodation needs, as well as health/welfare/education needs. The twice yearly count, referred to in paragraph 15, can provide a starting point for this. Other potential sources include information from the monitoring of unauthorised encampments, information from managers of permanent sites and from Gypsies/Travellers themselves through local liaison groups.
- Information should be collected on the location of encampments, numbers of caravans/vehicles involved and the duration of each encampment. A record of issues, complaints and actions regarding these encampments would also be useful.
Box 3: we would like to hear about examples of good practice around gathering information about Gypsies/Travellers at a local level and around engaging them in discussions about developing/implementing strategies.
- Sharing information between partner agencies and across local authority boundaries can help particularly when looking at travelling patterns and considering site provision. Where they don't already exist, protocols will have to be developed to deal with issues of professional confidentiality and data protection.
- The provision of suitable accommodation for Gypsies/Travellers is an essential element in the strategy for managing unauthorised camping. Local authorities are now expected to address accommodation needs of Gypsies/Travellers in their Local Housing Strategy. Site provision can be provided publicly or privately and can take the form of residential sites providing long-term settled accommodation or stopping places for short-term stays. The local strategy for managing unauthorised camping will be linked to the extent of provision of sites/short-stay stopping places in the area. Please note that for the purposes of this paper, the term 'short-stay' encompasses other terms such as 'transit site'.
- Local authorities that experience unauthorised camping should review the provision of authorised sites, whatever form they take. This should be done in collaboration with neighbouring authorities to avoid double counting and to highlight cross boundary issues.
Box 4: what action should the local authority consider taking where there is deemed to be adequate site provision and/or unused pitches on existing sites?
Working Arrangements and Protocols
- The local authority should be the lead agency in managing unauthorised camping in its area, with named officers being identified in each local authority and the local police force. It is important that all key stakeholders, including the Gypsy/Traveller community, know who these officers are. Other departments and organisations likely to be involved should be identified, with a list of named contact officers in each stakeholder body. Responsibilities for dealing with unauthorised camping should be recognised within the job descriptions and work loads of these officers. Regular liaison meetings involving officers from all stakeholder organisations will encourage good working relationships to develop and will provide an opportunity to discuss current issues and review arrangements as necessary. Joint training events can also help develop working relationships.
Box 5: we would like to hear about examples of good practice in developing joint working/protocols/joint training between local authorities and police forces.
- Local authorities should apply Best Value principles to their strategy for dealing with unauthorised encampment. This would include:
- identifying what they are spending at present on dealing with this (responding to complaints, clearing rubbish etc)
- estimating the costs borne by others (local businesses and landowners)
- considering whether there are indirect costs of unauthorised camping e.g. additional costs to health and education
- comparing these with the possible costs and benefits of improving site provision, where appropriate (including short-stay)
Communicating the Strategy
- The strategy for unauthorised camping should be published and widely disseminated to local businesses, residents and Gypsy/Traveller groups, making clear who is responsible for what elements of the strategy. It is also important to make clear what can be achieved and the timescale for doing so, to avoid raising unrealistic expectations about what the strategy can deliver. Mechanisms for communicating the strategy can include information leaflets and local authority websites. Media handling arrangements and strategies should also be considered.
Monitoring the Strategy
- Monitoring arrangements need to be planned as an integral part of the strategy and it would make sense for the local authority, as lead agency, to take responsibility, reporting back to the strategy working group. This should identify progress towards meeting the objectives of the strategy, but could also include monitoring how protocols and arrangements for partnership working are evolving and how they could be revised and improved.
A Holistic Approach
- Developing a strategic approach towards managing unauthorised camping provides an opportunity for local authorities and others to consider policies for Gypsies/Travellers in a holistic manner. Relevant policy areas include land planning, housing, environmental health, education, health care, equality and social inclusion.
Box 6: we would like to hear from local authorities about how their other strategies link into and inform the strategy on unauthorised camping
Page updated: Thursday, May 25, 2006