Written evidence from the Showmen's Guild
of Great Britain (ARSS 136)|
The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain (The Guild)
is the national representative body of over 90% of Travelling
For the past four years the Guild has been actively
involved years in the drawing up of policies for Showpeople within
the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) for each of the English
The accommodation assessments (GTAAs) carried out
in the preparation of the RSSs were the first time any census
of Showpeople has been conducted. Furthermore, the assessment
process established positive working relationships between the
Guild, Showmen, regional bodies and involved groups of local authorities
to meet the identified needs. Examples are included within this
The Guild's experience of the RSS process was wholly
positive. All stages, from survey to Examination in Public, were
carried out in exemplary fashion by regional officials and the
Planning Inspectorate with full participation by LPAs.
The revocation of the RSSs without any replacement
system has been detrimental to the continuing process of partnership
working to tackle the high level of overcrowding and homelessness
amongst Showpeople. The GTAAs showed that over 36% have no permanent
The "intention to revoke" planning guidance
04/2007 on Planning for Showpeople announced by the Secretary
of State on 29 August as part of the revocation of RSSs and replacement
by "light touch regulation" will exacerbate the situation.
At no stage has there been any consultation on these
changes with the community of Showpeople who feel disenfranchised
and disillusioned given the importance of permanent accommodation.
The Guild would welcome the opportunity to make their
presentation at a hearing into these important affairs.
1. The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain (The
Guild) is a long established organisation, founded in 1889, representing
over 90% of Showpeople, the community who organise fairgrounds
and circuses. Showpeople are independent business people who pay
large sums to local authorities for use of grounds, few of whom
seek any council or government assistance for living accommodation.
2. All regional branches of the Guild were involved
in making representations within reviews of RSSs and welcomed
the opportunity to speak on behalf of members.
3. Many Showpeople live on overcrowded and unsatisfactory
sites whilst others have no home at all. Some have temporary planning
consents or live on sites awaiting the outcome of planning applications.
The changing patterns of working and living have had a significant
impact on the residential needs of our members which is why the
Guild supported use of RSSs to tackle the problem of under provision
of permanent plots.
4. Traditionally livelihood involved attending
large multi-day fairs in our own or adjoining regions. Now Showpeople
also work at smaller fairs or provide rides, stalls and shows
at events such as school or village fetes. Fixed-price equipment
hire, where attractions are hired at parties, weddings, corporate
hospitality and promotional work, now form a significant part
of our income. These events are usually one or two days long.
As a result showmen tend to return to their yards after a short
time away and it is no longer appropriate to refer to them as
"winter quarters". This brings clear advantages for
uninterrupted access to education for our young and continuity
of health care for all.
5. It is rare for planning applications to be
passed by Local Planning Authorities and over 70% of successful
applications only ultimately succeed at Appeal. The RSS process,
by quantifying need and seeking to establish ways of meeting this,
was welcomed as an attempt to correct this historic imbalance.
6. The abrupt revocation of all RSSs by the Secretary
of State could have the effect of throwing onto the scrap heap
all of the hard work put into the development of regional planning
policies for Showpeople by the regional assemblies, local authorities
and the Guild.
DEVELOPING RSS POLICIES
7. The RSS's adoption of policies for the accommodation
needs of Showpeople grew out of the Gypsy and Travellers Accommodation
Assessments (GTAAs) carried out by all local authorities. The
Government decision to include Showpeople in the process came
part way through the exercise. However, the Guild immediately
recognised that it was an important project and enthusiastically
8. Some GTAAs were handled on a regional basis
with one study for an area; others were county wide and some on
a joint borough basis. Where these were done well there were Steering
groups including the Guild and other Travelling Communities with
local authorities scrutinising information and testing findings.
The results of GTAAs were submitted to each local authority who
would make their own comments, sometimes challenging the outcome,
and then reported to Regional Assemblies.
9. There would then follow a major public consultation
on these figures including exhibitions and public meetings with
feedback encouraged from local people including from travelling
and settled communities.
10. Regional Assemblies would then come up with
proposals for meeting these needs which showed, without exception,
high levels of requirement for plots due to the homelessness exposed.
Nationally these GTAAs showed over 36% of Showpeople have no permanent
home. There is no simple answer to meeting such needs and discussions
11. The process ended at Examinations in Public,
run by PINS, where all local authorities, residents, parish councils,
individuals and travelling communities had the opportunity to
test the evidence, following which the Inspectors would make recommendations.
Local Authorities would then build this into Local Development
12. This was the first time that such debates
on planning issues had been held in anything other than the adversarial
background of planning applications as all factors, environmental
constraints, sustainability, political practicality, and of course
the desperate need of the communities concerned, were balanced.
There was a clear need for a changed balance between local authorities
who, for political expediency only, routinely refuse planning
applications and Showpeople who have a crisis of homelessness
causing stress, poor health and lack of educational opportunities
for young people.
RSS PROCESS FOR
13. At the commencement of the RSS process, the
Guild believed the outcome would be that for the first time there
would be figures of need that could be used in planning applications
but could not easily be dismissed by local authorities. It was
our view this would be a positive outcome.
14. However the actual process was beneficial
in itself. The Guild has always wished to see fairness in planning.
It is the view of the Guild that showmen should have the right
to live anywhere land is appropriate. We have always argued that
there should be no "ghettos" of Showpeople or policies
that state that Showpeople shall only live in areas where Showpeople
already reside. Such an approach would not be considered acceptable
for any other section of society and therefore should not be for
Showpeople. The former planning guidance (22/91) was very good
in describing appropriate land but had a requirement for local
links to be established. This was too restrictive and effectively
kept all new homes within boroughs where Showpeople already lived.
04/2007 removed this as an absolute requirement.
15. The system of joint working established by
boroughs and the involvement of the Guild in Steering Groups was
most positive. Local Authorities gained an awareness of the reality
of the homelessness; the Guild and Showpeople an understanding
of political difficulties faced by Councillors. In local areas
this joint structure was having a positive impact. Therefore in
some boroughs where there were no existing communities of Showpeople,
officers and councillors began to recognise the justice of having
positive policies that would enable Showpeople applying for sites
to be fairly considered.
16. Joint working is recommended in 04/2007 and
meetings around RSSs encouraged this. Since the hearings there
have been very positive results with local authorities directly
approving planning applications, for instance in East Cambridge,
South Gloucestershire and Bromley. There have been LPAs working
with the Guild and local Showpeople to meet needs highlighted.
For instance Mole Valley, Runneymede, Chiltern, Broxbourne, Norwich,
Berkshire Unitary Authorities, and County Councils such as Buckinghamshire,
Surrey and Kent have been seeking to establish joint working arrangements.
There are more around the country.
OF RSS POLICIES
17. The planning issues relating to Showpeople
in North-West England are similar to those in other regions. Many
plots are overcrowded and accommodation is distributed unevenly.
18. Of the 444 authorised plots in 2007 some
356 or 80% were in Greater Manchester. However, even these are
distributed unevenly. Five of the 10 Manchester authorities do
not have any Showpeople within them.
19. The draft RSS proposed that the total number
should increase by 285 in the period 2007-16 and from 2021 to
2016 proposed that the number should increase by 3% pa (compound).
This totalled a further 122.
20. Based on a Guild sponsored survey of needs
and preferences the policies proposed that 46% of the 285 new
plots up to 2016 should be outside Greater Manchester. The EiP
panel reduced the compound growth to 2% and therefore the latter
figure to 76, recommending that LPAs should identify sites in
21. As with other RSSs the Guild's regional branch
was fully involved in policy development and supportive at the
March EiP, only suggesting minor amendments.
22. As in other regions the Guild's North West
branch was very satisfied at the way that the policies had been
developed. Its members felt that their views had been properly
taken into account. Consequently the Guild is disappointed that
RSS system was abolished before the draft policies could be adopted.
However, as in other regions, the Guild is keen to salvage what
it can from the EIP panel report in trying to secure similar increase
in and distribution of new plots through the LDF process. Without
an RSS system this could become increasingly difficult.
23. The Secretary of State's revocation of the
RSSs has put all this progress in jeopardy. His view that the
RSSs forced the local authorities into actions against their wishes
is unjustified . RSSs did not prejudice the local planning authorities'
duty to consider all planning applications on their merits. They
did not identify sites for Travelling Show people and did not
force local authorities to spend money on sites. Indeed the majority
of Showpeople aspire to own their own plots and few seek Council
or Government built and funded sites. All they wish to have is
a fair chance at obtaining planning permission on sites that they,
with expensive and expert advice, have found and purchased.
24. Since the revocation of Spatial Strategies
the Secretary of State has given advice to local authorities on
planning needs of Showpeople. He has said that local authorities
should meet genuine local needs and historical demand and that
they can, if they wish, use existing GTAAs for this or they can
undertake new ones.
25. However this assumes that local authorities
will be reasonable and fair. For instance, the GTAA for Surrey
Heath recognised a need in their area for 10 plots, the EiP said
13. The Council have, with no new GTAA and no evidence to support
their decision, decided for political expediency to put in their
draft LDF a figure of 0. Selby participated in a regional GTAA
which identified a figure of 10 for their borough, and again for
political expediency their Policy Committee has decided that a
figure of 0 is what they will use. Neither of these boroughs are
taking the Secretary of State's suggestion of undertaking a new
GTAA, they have just decided on a figure of zero in their plans.
This will not meet "genuine local needs".
26. The Mayor of London reduced the figure of
need for Showpeople in his proposals for the London Plan by 27%
with no logical justification other than this was the sort of
figure the boroughs might accept. This is not a reflection of
need but of political convenience. He has now issued a new proposal
which takes them out of the plan altogether and puts the onus
back to individual local authorities. It could be considered that
this is because he does not want to be publicly seen as providing
for Travellers in any way and wants to wash his hands of the matter.
27. All of these actions contrast with the approach
prior to the revocation of Spatial Strategies whereby partnerships
were being developed and none of these will assist meet the identified
need for new plots to settle the issue of homelessness. This is
back to the days when Councils wanted to push Showmen out of their
boroughs, despite the considerable payments made by Showpeople
to them for use of parks for fairs. The Showpeople were wanted
as providers of council funds at events, but not wanted as residents
28. DCLG have indicated that funding will be
available for local authorities to build new sites for travellers
in their areas but this is of very limited value to Showpeople.
29. Also DCLG have stated that joint planning
between boroughs shall be encouraged, and whilst this is welcome
the consultation on this and structures for implementation should
have been completed prior to the revoking of the existing system.
Joint working is essential for a fair resolution of the needs
but Councils with no Showpeople will resist participating in such
30. At best the decision to revoke existing systems
prior to the establishment of new ones will cause delay, and at
worst despair as many homeless Showpeople now see no prospect
of finding permanent homes for themselves.
31. The level of need identified in GTAAs reflects
families who are in desperate need of permanent homes. This is
an actual figure representing real people, not a theoretical abstract
that will disappear with a vote at a Planning Committee.
32. With proper guidance on the definition of
"genuine local need" and "historic demand"
and a system whereby local authorities will participate in joint
planning exercises, perhaps through County structures, there is
scope for discussion on a new strategy, but this should have happened
prior to the RSSs being scrapped as at present local authorities
are defining matters themselves in their own interests. Although
the Secretary of State has made clear in public announcements
his concern for the health of the travelling communities, current
uncertainty is causing severe stress and distress.
04/2007 PLANNING FOR
33. On 29 August 2010, Bank Holiday Sunday, the
Secretary of State published a statement that it was, in his words
"Time for a Fair Deal for the Travelling and Settled Communities".
http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1700758. This says
that as part of the process of revoking the Regional Spatial Strategies
he would be revoking the existing planning guidance on Showpeople,
04/2007, and replacing this with "light touch regulation"
to remind Councils of their statutory responsibilities.
34. He said that he would be rewarding lawful
behaviour by Gypsies and Travellers in Council owned sites by
giving them the same rights as residents of council properties.
He also said that local authorities would be encouraged by payment
of grants to build new local authority sites.
35. There are very few showmen on Council owned
Showmen's sites and limited desire from showmen for Council built
sites and so limited benefit to our members from this approach
which indicates a complete lack of knowledge of this community.
36. There has been no consultation with the Showmen's
Guild on this matter. Showpeople feel excluded from this process
and therefore excluded from the concept of localism and that they
are considered to have no value.
37. However the quoted justification for the
revocation of 04/2007 is questionable. The statement refers specifically
to "some local councils" who have reported that 04/2007
has "compelled them to build on the countryside". The
Guild have applied under FoI for evidence from any local council
who has been compelled to build anywhere because of these guidelines
which say completely the opposite. They require local authorities
to identify potential sites within their boroughs and put these
into local plans. Hopefully, local authorities who have been "compelled"
by Regional Spatial Strategies and Circular by 04/2007 will supply
evidence to this Committee, and if not then the Secretary of State
will supply this when he attends.
38. It is only lazy authorities who have seen
Planning Appeals grant temporary permissions for Showpeople to
live on, for example, greenbelt sites until, as 04/2007 states,
the LDF process identifies appropriate land. 04/2007 states that
councils can bring this work forwards if necessary. Therefore
04/2007 compels councils to be reasonable and nothing more.
39. Furthermore the Secretary of State avers
on 29 August that "unauthorised encampments cause tensions
between the settled and travelling communities" and that
it is the unfairness of the planning system, apparently in favour
of the travelling communities that causes community tensions and
if this is changed such tensions will disappear. This is just
plain wrong. There have never been any community tensions between
showmen and local people or reports of anti social behaviour anywhere
in the country. Guild rules require that showmen follow strict
codes of conduct on sites and these are upheld at all times.
40. Where over 36% of Showpeople have been identified
by the GTAA process to be homeless, it is hard to justify a claim
that the system is biased in their favour.
41. Unless there is actual evidence of major
failings of the existing guidelines it is our submission that
this "revocation" of 04/2007 should be halted until
replacements are prepared and subject to consultation, including
42. It is reasonable for a government to review
and change laws and processes which were inherited and with which
they do not agree. However it is not reasonable to simply revoke
existing practices without an analysis of the existing system,
evidence of the issues involved and proposals on which to consult
or any notion or idea as to what will replace them.
43. The abolition of the RSS process and the
announcement of revoking 04/2007 which is part of that process
should not have been done until everyone, travelling communities
and local authorities, knew what would be in their place.
44. It is essential that the new structure includes:
Requirements that local authorities reflect the actual
levels of need found in GTAAs within Local Development Frameworks;
Structures for joint working that involve all local
authorities and partnership with the Guild;
The Travelling Showman's community being treated
as equal partners in this process instead of being completely
So far there has been no discussion and no consideration.
This should now be rectified.