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Finding a new home

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5. Gypsies and Travellers

Most people in Devon know very little about gypsies and travellers. You may, for instance, be unaware that the population in Devon includes a significant number of gypsies and travellers. Many of whom have long historical links with this part of the country.

The Devon population of gypsies and travellers comprises of mainly English Romany Gypsies, New Travellers and some Irish Travellers.


Authorised encampments

Devon County Council has overall management for the two gypsy and traveller Local Authority sites. These are at Sowton and Broadclyst.

  • Sowton, which has been in existence for over 30 years, consists of 11 pitches. These offer permanent residential accommodation.
  • Broadclyst consists of five permanent residential pitches. It is slightly different in that the land is owned by The National trust.

Residents on both sites pay rent and are responsible for paying council tax and utility costs. No new residents will be permitted on the Broadclyst site due to ownership.


Unauthorised encampments

Although there are a number of authorised private sites in Devon there is still a serious shortage of sites for gypsies and travellers. This applies here in the county and across the country as a whole. This has led to gypsies and travellers camping on land that they do not own. These are called unauthorised encampments. There is also a growing tendency to buy land and develop it without planning permission. This is called unauthorised development. At present, approximately one in five traveller caravans in England are on an unauthorised sites. 90% of planning applications that gypsies and travellers submit fail. This 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), and those on privately owned land.

For more information and an application form to apply please visit the Devon County Council website.

Please see our Protocol for Unauthorised Encampments.

Where unauthorised encampments of vehicles or caravans are made on Exeter City Council owned land, the Estates Services Team will make contact with the owners of these vehicles and take action as required. Please contact us online to report any unauthorised encampments in Exeter.