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Gypsy, Roma and Travellers

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The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities make up some of the largest ethnic minority groups in St Helens.

In St Helens there are a number of authorised Gypsy, Roma and Traveller sites across the borough, both council owned and privately owned.

We have a responsibility to meet the housing needs of the whole community. To ensure that we meet the housing needs of local Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, we manage a permanent site which has been provided for families who wish to stay in the area.

The permanent site contains provision for 20 families. There is an Allocations Policy, which sets out the rules for how available pitches will be let. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers wishing to come onto the site must complete an application form. The Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer manages the site.

We have taken part in the Merseyside and West Lancashire Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment to fully understand the needs of the community.

  • Manage the permanent Council Gypsy and Traveller site including the allocation of pitches;
  • Promote good community relations between different racial groups;
  • Work with other agencies to improve access to services for Gypsies and Travellers. This includes working alongside education to ensure the educational needs are met;
  • Respond to complaints about encampments and to work with other agencies to deal with unauthorised encampments;
  • Provide information on all Gypsy and Traveller matters.

What is an unauthorised encampment?

An unauthorised encampment is where any person camps on land they do not own. The Gypsy Traveller Liaison Officer will work alongside partner agencies including the local police to effectively manage unauthorised encampments while upholding the rights of both the Gypsy Traveller community and the settled community.

Are the welfare needs of the encampment taken into account?

For any unauthorised encampments, the council will complete assessments for health, welfare and education needs of the encampment occupants; this is carried out by the Gypsy Traveller Liaison Officer and also the local police.

What is the council’s process?

The council cannot immediately move on unauthorised encampments from land within its ownership, as a formal legal process needs to be followed, including establishing who is the legal owner of the land, following Sections 77/78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Some encampments only wish to stay for a few days and vacate the land before the legal process in completed. In certain circumstances, the council may agree with other agencies to tolerate an encampment for a longer period of time.

The length of stay in which the encampment stays depends on the individual circumstances. If the encampment requires a court order, the process can take 7 to 10 days, which is dictated by legal requirements and cannot be shortened.

What if the land is not council owned?

The council needs written consent from the landowner to carry out the legal process as above. The responsibility is with the landowner to take the necessary steps. However, the council will work alongside the landowner and this will include carrying out a welfare assessment.

An unauthorised development is where any person has developed an area of land for residential use but without planning permission. Unauthorised developments will be dealt with by the council's planning enforcement team who can be contacted by telephone on 01744 676179 or email via planningenforcement@sthelens.gov.uk.

Anyone from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community can apply to the council to reside on the council site. Therefore, we ask that you contact the Gypsy Traveller Liaison Officer to arrange for an application form to be completed.

If you have identified land, you must contact the council’s Planning section to discuss any permissions that may be required. 

Planning department: 01744 676175

Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation under the Equality Act 2010, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values. The aim of this information is to set out how the council and other official agencies will work to try to balance the rights of all those involved.

Lorraine McGowan - Gypsy Traveller Liaison Officer

Telephone: 01744 671683

Email: LorraineMcGowan@sthelens.gov.uk