Gypsies and Travellers

The Dorset population of Gypsies and Travellers comprises of mainly English Romany Gypsies, Irish Traveller, New Traveller, and Circus and Showmen.

Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values. Our Fairness for All scheme ensures that we meet the needs of all groups of people and challenge prejudice where it exists, including that experienced by Gypsies and Travellers.

Report an unauthorised encampments

We can only deal with unauthorised encampments on land we own – such as parks, public car parks, open spaces and roads. 

If you have seen an unauthorised encampment check our current unauthorised encampments page, as we may be aware of this already. This page is regularly updated with actions being taken by the council.

Use this service:

  • report an unauthorised encampment

You will need to let us know the:

  • exact location
  • approximately how many vehicles there are
  • how long they have been there


You can also report an unauthorised encampment by telephoning 01202 261700.

If a crime is being committed or someone’s life is in danger, call the police on 999.

Authorised residential site

We currently have 1 authorised residential site of 15 pitches for Gypsies and Travellers.

As with all social tenants, residents are expected to pay rent, Council Tax and utilities and abide by tenancy conditions and site rules to maintain their accommodation.

We offer a range of support for residents including tenancy support and management, budgeting, financial management, adult literacy, playgroups and family outreach.

There is currently a long waiting list for the residential site so we help Gypsies and Travellers explore other housing options and sources of support. If you want to join the waiting list for the site and this application is done using Dorset Homechoice, which also gives applicants the opportunity to be considered for other forms of social housing in Poole.

Gypsies and Travellers are welcome to access our housing options service based at the Civic Centre, where we offer help with form filling and literacy, help to access health and education services, links to supportive local churches and community groups and help to contact other Traveller sites in Dorset which may have vacancies.

Unauthorised encampments

Gypsies and Travellers' way of life means that they travel the country staying for various periods of time in different locations, in order to earn a living. This has been their way of life for many generations.

There is a serious shortage of sites for Gypsies and Travellers both in Dorset and across the country as a whole. This has led to Gypsies and Travellers camping on land that they do not own (unauthorised encampments), and also a growing tendency to buy land and develop it without planning permission (unauthorised developments). At present, approximately 1 in 5 Traveller caravans in England are on unauthorised sites. 90% of planning applications that Gypsies and Travellers submit fail, which often forces them back onto the road with no fixed abode.

When Gypsies/Travellers camp on land that they do not own, without the permission of the owner, they are trespassing. 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.

Unauthorised encampments fall into 2 main categories:

  • those on land owned by local authorities (highways, schools, public parks and car-parks etc)
  • those on privately owned land 

Where the encampment is on our land we can take action, if they are on private land the landowner will have to take action. The government has advised that when unauthorised campers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.

We are currently working with Bournemouth and Dorset councils to bring forward plans for authorised sites, which would enable us to manage unauthorised encampments more effectively in future.

Page last updated: 30 May 2019
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