Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Ninth Report


(a)We totally reject the view that Travelling Fairs have had their day. We recognise that, well run, they can give immense pleasure. It is a foolish local authority which does not do all it can to encourage the staging of traditional travelling fairs (paragraph 12).
(b)If the problems of nuisance associated with funfairs are to be overcome, good cooperation is vital. In some instances this will involve formal liaison committees, in others they may be informal. However, in all cases residents, visitors to the fair, and showpeople alike must recognise the need for co-operation and common sense and the desire to maintain a valuable tradition (paragraph 19).
(c)We are very strongly in favour of an urban renaissance. No large community ought to be without a central focus for public entertainment, a place where events such as funfairs can be held. Villages, towns and cities with such spaces ought to ensure they are designed to make holding funfairs easy, with good access to services such as water and electricity, while those which do not have such areas ought to be striving to get them, as recommended in the current Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (PPG17). Further, we recommend that the revised PPG 17 make specific reference to the value of historic travelling fairs and the role which they can play in the regeneration of town centres (paragraph 23).
(d)It is very important that all the relevant regulators work together to help make travelling fairs a success. Liaison committees ought to be in place for all large fairs to see that both the public and showpeople get a safe, enjoyable, fair without exploiting anyone, least of all the showpeople. Such committees should include representatives of all parties with an interest in the smooth running of the fair - local Councillors and officials; the emergency services; local residents; and of course the showpeople themselves (paragraph 27).
(e)We recommend that a regular, perhaps annual, seminar take place bringing together relevant officials and others from the Showmen's Guild and other representatives of travelling showpeople, on the one hand, and the Local Government Association, on the other, to discuss issues relating to travelling fairs. We further recommend that the results of such seminars be made available to all local authorities and lessees of fairground sites (paragraph 28).
(f)It is clear to us that many local authorities are not properly considering the needs of travelling showpeople, either during the preparation of their development plans, or when considering individual applications for sites for travelling showpeople's depots. We welcome the undertaking given to us by the Local Government Association to draw the attention of its members to the existence of Circular 22/91, so that it no longer "languishes in the bottom drawer" of planning officers' desks. Local authorities must take their responsibilities towards travelling showpeople, as outlined in Circular 22/91, as seriously as they take their responsibilities to any other sector of society (paragraph 36).
(g)Local authorities would be greatly aided in the task of ensuring that the planning system takes adequate account of the needs of travelling showpeople if more information was available as a basis on which to assess those needs. If the Showmen's Guild were to carry out, region by region, a survey seeking to establish current unmet needs; future likely needs; and what provisions currently exist for travelling showpeople's accommodation in regional and local development plans, the Committee would then feel it ought to return to this topic before the next election (paragraph 38).
(h)All local authorities should heed the advice contained in Circular 22/91 and ensure that they consider the needs of travelling showpeople when preparing their development plans. We emphasise that the primary responsibility for ensuring that adequate provision is made for the needs of travelling showpeople in a particular area lies with the local planning authority. Nevertheless, it would greatly assist the process if the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain became more vigorously and systematically involved in the drawing up of both regional and local development plans. Where no provision for showpeople's sites is made in the development plan for an area where the Guild has identified a need for such sites, an appeal should be made to the Secretary of State (paragraph 43).
(i)We consider that the task of overcoming the problems which showpeople are currently experiencing with the planning system would also be greatly assisted by the establishment of a dedicated planning committee of the Guild, similar to that which currently oversees health and safety matters. Such a committee could undertake the tasks of compiling a census of current and future needs for accommodation and of coordinating Guild input into development plans referred to above. It could also assist individual Guild members by giving advice and assistance in obtaining planning permission for sites for travelling showpeople's accommodation (paragraph 44).
(j)We do not accept the view that circulars have to be re-issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions in order to re-enforce them, nor that cross-referencing to other planning guidance is necessary. Far more important is demonstrating how a well-run authority has interpreted and applied the advice contained within the guidance. Either the Showmen's Guild or those involved regularly with these planning issues should consider publishing a good practice guide for the benefit of local planning authorities. The Showmen's Guild should discuss with the Local Government Association whether it would be appropriate for such a guide to be produced as a joint publication between the two organisations (paragraph 45).
(k)We were impressed during our inquiry with what the Guild could achieve, and with how effective some of its regional sections were. However, we were also concerned that the Guild was not as effective in some areas as it might be (paragraph 46).
(l)The travelling funfair industry is immensely valuable in economic, social and historical terms. The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain has played a key role in ensuring that this is so. Nevertheless, the industry, and those who work in it, continue to face problems. Showpeople ought to think long and hard as to how they can maintain and improve the effectiveness of the Guild, and thereby contribute much more to solving those problems. We also hope that the Guild will act on all the suggestions we make in this Report, and so facilitate greater understanding of their business and way of life at local and regional levels and dispel the prejudice and ignorance which in so many cases prevents travelling showpeople from taking their proper place in modern society (paragraph 47).

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