Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Gypsy and Traveller Cases

Adverse Possession

Milton Keynes Council v Nathan Wilsher and Persons Unknown [2022] EWHC 578 (QB), 23 March 2022.

The Claimant was the registered proprietor of Two Mile Ash Farm. The dispute concerned three fields ( ‘the Land’) that formed part of the land. The Claimant took action against the First Defendant as a trespasser. The First Defendant defended the action on the basis of adverse possession.

The relevant provisions of the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force on 13 October 2003. The First Defendant accepted that he could not satisfy the requirements of the 2002 Act so as to obtain registration on the basis of adverse possession since October 2003. However Mr Justice Eyre accepted on the evidence that the First Defendant and his father before him had been in adverse possession of the Land by grazing horses and other livestock for a period of at least 12 years before 13 October 2003.

Thanks to Tim Jones of No 5 Chambers, who acted for Mr Wilsher, for bringing this case to our attention.

LB Barking & Dagenham and others v Persons Unknown and others

[2022] EWCA Civ 13, 13 January 2022

Over the last 6 years, some 38 councils in England have obtained what have become known as ‘borough-wide’ injunctions prohibiting ‘persons unknown’ from camping on numerous sites and large swathes of public land within the boundaries of each local authority. Such injunctions have a disproportionate effect on nomadic Gypsies and Travellers, particularly given the long-standing shortage of lawful sites for them to camp on.

Abuse of Process

B Havering & ors v Persons Unknown & ors [2021] EWHC 2648 (QB)

When laying down very important principles for local authorities when seeking wide injunction orders against Gypsy and Traveller encampments in his judgment of 12 May 2021 ( see LB Barking & Dagenham & ors v Persons Unknown & ors [2021] EWHC 1201 (QB) – and see our article on this matter at, Nicklin J was also very critical of four local authorities who, having obtained interim orders, failed to progress those to final hearings. He directed that those cases (and also a case for another local authority, Test Valley BC, where only directions were required for a final hearing) should be listed for a hearing to decided whether or not there had been an abuse of process.

Mead Lane Moorings

The Travellers’ Advice Team at CLP were instructed by a liveaboard boater who resorts to the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal. She has what Canal & River Trust (CRT) describe as a ‘continuous cruising licence’ which means she has to move her boat ‘bona fide for navigation’ in terms of the British Waterways Act 1995. This means she cannot remain in the same place for more than 14 days apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Definition of Gypsy and Traveller

Lisa Smith -v- The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Others [2021] EWHC 1650 (Admin) 17 June 2021

Between 2006 and 2015, planning policies included within the definition of ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ those who had either temporarily or permanently ceased to travel by reason of health, education or old age. By a revised planning policy issued in August 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government modified the definition to remove the reference to those who had permanently ceased to travel for such reasons. Lisa Smith, a Romany Gypsy who lives with her extended family in caravans on a private site in Leicestershire, challenged the lawfulness of the 2015 policy following a Planning Inspector refusing her planning appeal because she did not come within the definition. As a result the Planning Inspector concluded that the application by Ms Smith did not benefit from the more permissive planning regime contained in Planning policy for traveller sites.

Mr Justice Pepperall dismissed her appeal. Originally Ms Smith appealed on another ground, aside from the challenge to the alleged unlawfulness of the definition, but she is no longer pursuing that other ground.


Since 2015, 38 local authorities in England have obtained wide injunctions against Gypsies and Travellers effectively banning them from large swathes of land in the local authority area. We believe that most of the land identified would be the only land that Gypsies and Travellers would be likely to be able to stop on if they were resorting to the area or passing through the area.  Obviously this is in the context where there remains a totally inadequate supply of stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers who are exercising their nomadic way of life whether that be permanent pitches, temporary pitches or the use of land subject to ‘negotiated stopping agreements’. For many, many years Gypsy and Traveller organisations have argued that the answer to unauthorised encampments is the provision of sites and stopping places. If every local authority in England obtained such a wide injunction, where would Gypsies and Travellers go to?

Braintree DC v SSHCLG and Nicholls [2021] EWHC 651 (QB)

A Planning Inspector granted Mr Nicholls planning permission for a Travellers’ site. The local authority challenged this decision on the basis that the Inspector had misinterpreted the development plan and had failed to provide sufficient reasons for her decision. Timothy Mould QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) dismissed the appeal. If the local authority’s interpretation of their own policy had been allowed it would have meant that no Gypsy or Traveller site could ever have been given permission in the countryside. Their appeal against the costs award against them was also dismissed. See:

Roadside Gypsies and Travellers During the Pandemic Part 3

Merritt v Thurrock Council & Midos Management Chelmsford County Court, 8 January 2021

Since soon after the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, letters from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Government have indicated that local authorities should attempt not to evict Gypsies and Travellers or should seek to identify alternative locations and should also look to provide services such as water, sanitation and refuse collection (see Issues Nos 50 and 51 of TAT News:
The case of Merritt, albeit not concerning a Traveller, has effectively re-emphasised this message.

Into the Sea? Wide Injunctions

London Borough of Enfield v Persons Unknown [2020] EWHC 2717 (QB)

Ever since 2015 when Harlow Council obtained a wide injunction against ‘persons unknown’ camping on a large number of parcels of land, Gypsies, Travellers and their supporters have been concerned at the slow but sure spread of these injunctions. If every local authority in England obtained such an injunction where would Gypsies and Travellers who have no place to stop (due to the failure of the very same local authorities to provide pitches, both permanent and transit),  go? Into the sea?

The Enshrined Right to Travel : The Bromley Case

London Borough of Bromley v Persons Unknown, London Gypsies and Travellers and others [2020] EWCA Civ 12


As many readers will know, London Borough of Bromley (‘Bromley’) appealed to the County Court against the refusal of “a de facto boroughwide prohibition of encampment and entry/occupation…in relation to all accessible public spaces in Bromley” ( in the words of Ms Ann-Leigh Mulcahy QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, when refusing the injunction). Some 38 similar injunctions have been granted by the High Court in recent years. In the Bromley case, London Gypsies and Travellers (LGT) intervened represented by Marc Willers QC and Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court Chambers and CLP (all acting substantially pro bono). This was, therefore, the first case involving such an injunction in which the Gypsy and Traveller community were represented before the High Court. As a result of the success of LGT in getting the wide injunction discharged (an injunction just against fly tipping and depositing waste was granted), this was also the first case to be argued out at appellate level. At Court of Appeal level Liberty and seven other local authorities also intervened.