Written evidence from the London Gypsy
and Traveller Unit (ARSS 125)|
There is a significant unmet need for pitches for
Gypsies and Travellers.
The response to this need must to be driven by central
or regional policy, because of local opposition founded on prejudice
Arguments for lower targets have been founded on
special pleading, not "local knowledge".
Without a supra-local lead there will be a reduction
in the stock of pitches.
Any likely level of financial incentives will have
an insignificant impact on the supply of pitches. Other forms
of national/regional promotion are important.
The Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments
(GTAAs) are an invaluable evidence base for future policy in this
area. The Government's invitation to local authorities to disregard
them is a waste of resources, an abdication of evidence-based
planning and a capitulation to local barriers to inclusion.
This is evidenced by the full set of Gypsy and Traveller
Needs Assessments. These were large scale studies conducted throughout
the UK and adopted at the level of RSSs and the London Plan. The
seriousness of this need is confirmed in reports by CRE and the
Rowntree foundation as well as numerous local studies, including
the response by the Gypsy and Traveller Community and others to
the Draft Replacement London Plan. These showed a need for 800
additional pitches in London over 10 years.
In his recently published alteration to the London
Plan the Mayor has disowned all responsibility for a response
to this need. Following the Government's revocation of RSS, the
Mayor chose to lobby for a greater regional role in areas such
as housing finance and to retain all London Plan targets EXCEPT
that for Gypsies and Travellers.
Localism and the abolition of RSS will be a severe
blow to this most disadvantaged social group.
and political systems that are designed to promote inclusion and
equality frequently exclude Gypsies and Travellers. This includes
political structures and community development."
[Cemlyn et al 2009]
Rather than promoting inclusion, "localism"
will too often mean that the tyranny of the local majority [JS
Mill 1859] exacerbates the exclusion of Gypsies and Travellers.
There is a substantial body of research [for example, see Cemlyn
et al 2009 and CRE 2006] that gives evidence of the prejudice
confronting Gypsy and Traveller communities. We give just one
example, from the Good Practice Guidance of the Royal Town Planning
"Development management planners are often
under pressure to consider racially motivated and discriminatory
views and representations relating to Gypsy and Traveller communities.
The incidence and adverse effects of such representations have
not necessarily received the systematic attention of those working
to eliminate discrimination. There are still circumstances where
politicians, practitioners and members of the public apparently
consider openly biased, discriminatory and unfounded remarks about
Gypsies or Travellers as individuals or communities to be somehow
legitimate or acceptable, in circumstances where similar remarks
made about other black or ethnic minority communities would be
immediately recognised as discriminatory and unacceptable."
Only a small minority of London Boroughs has shown
itself willing to stand up to local pressures in the name of tackling
the disadvantage suffered by Gypsies and Travellers.
Special pleading will lead to an inconsistent set
of targets which has no basis in the reality of local circumstances
but is the worst kind of post-code lottery.
Bexley LB steadfastly refuses to recognise any need
in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Bromley LB contends that its high current pitch provision
should reduce its target, while Barnet LB and Westminster LB argue
that their lack of sites should reduce theirs.
Barnet LB, with its low housing density, argues that
too much weight is given to land availability, while high-density
Tower Hamlets LB reasons that too little weight is given to its
tight land supply.
Other Boroughs make similar points and it is clear
that, without regional targets, most Boroughs will have little
trouble justifying a set of inconsistent but politically easy
local targets that continue to ignore the needs of Gypsies and
Equity between boroughs pre-supposes a supra local
authority. Here Haringey LB complains that "It is not clear
why Haringey is allocated more additional pitches than some of
our neighbouring boroughs" and Greenwich reasons that the
amount built in a Borough should "make up" for where
pitches have been lost over the last decade. Only after pitches
have been added to the "shortfall" boroughs should the
remaining pitches need be redistributed across all the Boroughs.
It is this approach which will bring equity to the distribution."
Over the last ten years, before Gypsy and Traveller
planning policy was up and running, the following London Boroughs
closed Gypsy and Travellers sites [LGTU 2010] in spite of evident
|-15||Harrow||Watling Farm Close,
|-12||Haringey||Wood Green Common
|-4||Bark & Dag||Eastbrookend
There is a trend of pitch closures which is very long term and
will continue with the presently proposed policy. In spite of
significant population growth, the number of Gypsy and Traveller
pitches in London has fallen by 15% in the last 10 years from
600 to 500. The evidence is that a significant reduction in future
pitch numbers will follow the new policy's dampening of new development,
driving London's pitch total down towards 400 over the next five
Gypsies and Travellers Authorised pitches in London
There is no direct evidence of the effects of incentives on development.
However it is evident to any with a working knowledge of the policy
area in London that financial incentives alone will have no significant
effect on the development of Gypsy and Traveller sites. Much more
effective will be positive engagement at the London/Regional/national
The promotion of the many existing sites that are good neighbours
and where the local community includes sites residents.
Building on HCA encouragement of innovative low cost solutions.
Disseminating good practice such as Croydon's development in full
consultation with site residents showing exceptional value for
money; and Mendip DC's use of Community Land Trusts in the development
Studies to identify land for further sites should be brought forward,
and planning for development begun as land is identified.
Working towards identifying or creating Registered Social Landlords
willing to develop sites.
A full set of Gypsy and Traveller Needs Assessments was conducted
during the last six years which were examined and adopted at the
regional level. The London Assessment conducted by Fordhams Research
with support from the Greater London Authority [GLA 2009]. It
was a robust and useful study [LGTU 2010a] with, we understand,
a budget of approximately £120,000.
In the latest alteration to the Plan the Mayor states
"Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments (GTAAs)
have been undertaken by all local authorities and if local authorities
decide to review the levels of provision these assessments will
form a good starting point. However, local authorities are not
bound by them". [GLA 2010a]
All the indications are that, in London, the work of the assessment
will not be taken forward as a part of the recurrent housing needs
assessment in spite of its quality and significance as a data
In London, a minimum of £120,000 will have been wasted. This
does not include all the officer time involved. In other areas
there have been examinations into the assessments and policies
which have added significantly to the quality, coherence and consistency
of the results. The waste to the nation of disregarding these
assessments and examinations will be in the millions of pounds.
The DCLG [2010a] now specifies that
"Local councils are best placed to assess the needs of
travellers. The abolition of Regional Strategies means that local
authorities will be responsible for determining the right level
of site provision, reflecting local need and historic demand,
and for bringing forward land in DPDs."
In London, it is clear that this alternative to the GTAA will
be a travesty of evidence-based planning.
Cemlyyn C, Greenfields M, Burnett S, Matthews Z, Whitwell C.
Inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller Communities: A
review. Research Report 12 EHRC [March 2009]
CRE 2006: Commission for Racial Equality. Common
Ground Equality, good relations and sites for Gypsies and
Irish Travellers, CRE
DCLG (2010) Letter from the Chief Planning Officer
to Local Authorities (6 July 2010)
GLA. (2009). Consultation draft replacement London
GLA (2010a). Minor alterations to the consultation
draft replacement London Plan Gypsies and Travellers (including
travelling show people) and Aggregates
LGTU (2010a): London Gypsy and Traveller Unit. (May
2010) Objection to he London Plan consultation draft replacement
and the Minor Alteration Policy 3.9 Gypsies and Travellers
Mill JS. (1859). On Liberty
RTPI. (2007). Royal Town Planning Institute Good
Practice Note 4: Part C: Accommodation and Site Delivery
149 All these points draw on the Boroughs' representations
to the London Plan Enquiry. Back
In this he follows DCLG 2010, para 14. Back