Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by various interested groups and individuals on the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in the draft Housing Bill (DHB 32)

  I am writing to seek your assistance in ensuring that the accommodation needs of Travellers are addressed in the forthcoming Housing Bill and that this view is made known to the ODPM Select Committee.

  In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act ended the statutory duty for local authorities to create sites. This has increased the number of Travellers now living on unauthorised sites and has had a severe impact on their health and educational opportunities and general welfare opportunities. The increase in unauthorised sites has also caused great inconvenience for the settled community, and has raised tensions between Travellers and Non Travellers.

  I do feel that this situation should not be allowed to drift. I believe legislation at this time will be of benefit to both the Traveller community and the settled population.

  Research commissioned by the ODPM "The Provision and Condition of Local Authority Gypsy/Traveller Sites in England" by Pat Niner has noted the strength of opinion which exists. She states "There is no clear, widely understood national policy towards accommodation for Gypsies and other Travellers in England; there is a general feeling that such a policy is needed involving local authorities and others but with a strong lead from central government".

  The report found "There are obvious barriers to site provision, especially resistance from the settled community. Many believe that a statutory duty and central subsidy are needed to `encourage' local authorities to make provision." Intensive research and consultation has led to the formulation of a range of policy proposals to address this problem, including the Traveller Law Reform Bill brought forward by David Atkinson MP and recently given a reading in the House.

  I call upon the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the ODPM Select Committee for the Housing Bill to give these proposals serious consideration and to invite Traveller groups to give oral evidence.

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