Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by D A Remblance (TF 20)

  I write with reference to the Press Notice concerning Travelling Fairs and the Committee's wish to examine a number of issues which are of great concern to Travelling Showpeople of Buckles Lane, Thurrock.

  I write as a showperson and as a landowner seeking planning approval for winter accommodation for Travelling Showpeople.

  Thurrock, like many other local authorities, have failed to make adequate provision for the growing families of Travelling Showpeople. Whilst sites continue to be identified for housing sites, no new sites are being provided for Showpeople. Following this letter is a list of nearly 50 Local Authorities who were unable to provide suitable alternative sites for Thurrock Showpeople.

  I now address in turn the issues described in the press notice.

1.   The Continued Value of Historic Travelling Fairs

  The value of historic travelling fairs is evident in the continued popularity of fairs attended the length and breadth of the country by the people of the UK. The celebrations along the Mall provided for by the rides and stalls of Travelling Showpeople at the New Year celebrations typified the year round enjoyment found at fairs such as Finsbury Park, Oxford, Pickett Lock, Kings Lynn, etc, to name but a few.

  Travelling Fairs provide a service to the public that we all enjoy on the back of a tradition upheld by the Travelling Showpeople Community, whose services the country should be proud of and nurture rather than neglect.

2.   The Provision of Sites for Travelling Fairs

  The greatest problem facing Travelling Showpeople generally has been the loss of traditional winter quarters. This has become a major concern to the Showpeople's Community. Showpeople need permanent bases where they can spend the winter months, within reach of schools and other community facilities but large enough to carry out the vital maintenance work on equipment which is required by the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain as a self-regulating body and by law via the Health and Safety legislation. Unfortunately, many old established winter and permanent quarters have been lost in recent years to redevelopment schemes. These losses have not been replaced. Consequently, the remaining sites have become overcrowded. Basic recommended space standards and separation distances cannot be met. Extensive searches and correspondence with local authorities have been undertaken to locate suitable alternative sites; these attempts have proven fruitless.

3.   The Particular Needs of Travelling Showpeople in Carrying out their Trade

  The Travelling Showpeople's way of life is unique, travelling from fair to fair predominantly through the summer months, then returning to their traditional base during the winter months to service their equipment and prepare for the next season. For the Showpeople, their business is their life with pitches at fairs handed down from generation to generation. The family unit is important with all of the family involved from an early age in the running of the business. It is the tradition of Showpeople that parents and elderly relations remain within their family groups and are cared for by and within them. It is also the tradition that parents and elderly relatives within family groups stay on site all year round in order that children can attend local schools regularly and benefit from full time education, whilst their parents are travelling to earn a living. The lack of availability of suitable sites is causing great personal hardships to many families of Travelling Showpeople.

4.   The Effectiveness of Existing Planning Guidance on the Provision of Quarters for Travelling Showpeople

  The guidance contained in Circular 22/91 Travelling Showpeople is now out of date and ineffective. Whilst it acknowledges the Special Needs of Showpeople it is no longer of assistance to local authorities in meeting these needs and in particular it does not enable local authorities to identify suitable sites. The guidance makes no provision to overcome restrictions on development in protected areas such as the Green Belt. It therefore is ineffective in helping Showpeople to help themselves which is stated as the central aim of the Guidance.

5.   Whether any Action is Necessary to Ensure that Appropriate Regard is had to the needs of Travelling Showpeople Within the Planning System

  New Guidance should be provided that states what constitutes "very special circumstances" in the Green Belt for Travelling Showpeople. Where there is an absence of alternative sites within the local area and clear evidence of need for a site because of overcrowding and hardship, this should be accepted as constituting very special circumstances in the Green Belt.

  I trust the above is of assistance to the work of the Environmental Sub-committee and formally request that I be kept informed of all outcomes of the ongoing enquiry and would welcome any opportunity to be further involved.

D A Remblance

List of Local Authorities unable to provide suitable alternative sites for Thurrock Showpeople

  East Sussex County Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Kent County Council, Bexley Borough Council, Brent Borough Council, Bromley Borough Council, Camden Borough Council, Corporation of London Borough Council, Croydon Borough Council, Havering Borough Council, Hounslow Borough Council, Islington Borough Council, Lambeth Borough Council, Lewisham Borough Council, Merton Borough Council, Newham Borough Council, Redbridge Borough Council, Richmond upon Thames Borough Council, Sutton Borough Council, Tower Hamlets Borough Council, Waltham Forest Borough Council, Barnsley Borough Council, Broxbourne District Council, Cambridge City District Council, Caradon District Council, Chelmsford District Council, Colchester District Council, Crawley Disctrict Council, Epping Forest District Council, Great Yarmouth District Council, Harlow District Council, Maldon District Council, Rochford District Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Surrey Heath District Council, Swale District Council, Tandridge District Council, Watford District Council, Worthing District Council, Milton Keynes Council, Peterborough City Council, Slough Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, European Showmen's Union, Luxembourg, Die Vergnugungsbetriebe, Germany, Nationale Bond Van Kermisbedrijfhouders, Luxembourg, Assn Nazionale Esercenti Spettacoli Viaggianti, Italy.

February 2000

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