Written evidence from Traveller Law Reform
Project and Friends, Families and Travellers (ARSS 44)|
Proposed RSS changes will mean
A marked reduction of pitches planned and delivered
for Gypsies and Travellers.
Serious delay in provision.
Lack of monitoring, review of evidence base and oversight.
Reduction of community involvement in planning.
Increased unauthorised camping and costs to the public
Continued poor life outcomes for Gypsy and Traveller
families and children.
The difficulties which Gypsies and Travellers have
had in finding suitable accommodation to place their caravans,
the large public cost of enforcement measures and the recognition
of very poor health and educational outcomes led the last Government
to make a start to address the problems. The initial approach
was one of increased enforcement but the Government was persuaded
that mainstreaming provision was the only sensible route. The
Housing Act (2004) and subsequent planning circular (Circular
laid a requirement for local planning authorities (LPA) to carry
out a needs assessment (Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments
(GTAA)) and make planning provision in their Local Development
Framework. The role of the RSS process was to set the levels of
accommodation requirement (in terms of the number of pitches that
each LPA should plan for) as it does for conventional housing.
The view of FFT and TLRP is that this system is the best available
currently, though we believe that there should be a restoration
of a public duty on each local authority to make public provision.
These arrangements were accompanied by a government grant totalling
100 million for new public sites and also for refurbishment of
existing sites (the remaining 30 million was taken away in totality
earlier this year).
Several regions have completed the process of RSS
Review for Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation (SW, East and E Midlands).
The Panel Report of the EiPs for the South East (conducted in
February) and the North West (conducted in March) were released
recently by the Planning Inspectorate as the result of a Freedom
of Information request by ourselves.
There is a very uneven distribution of Gypsy and
Traveller sites in the country. Some local authorities have been
more responsive to the needs of Gypsies and Travellers than others.
Some have no or very little provision despite the presence of
Gypsies and Travellers. Some have been very active in discouraging
sites through rigorous enforcement action, essentially creating
"no-go" areas for this community. There is a considerable
state of denial about needs of this community evident in many
local authorities. Over all there has been a lack of provision
which has meant that many Gypsies and Travellers have had to move
into housing because of a lack of an alternative in an increasingly
hostile enforcement regime. The ill effects of what is effectively
forced movement into housing have been documented and the needs
of this section of the community have been recognised in a few
of the more recent GTAAs (eg London and Manchester). The official
CLG Caravan Count shows that 20% of caravans counted have no legal
place to stay, rendering their inhabitants homeless. This proportion
has remained unchanged since 1997. The reality is larger due to
overcrowding and poor quality statistics.
The regional planning process has allowed a start
to be made on addressing the huge backlog of need but also to
help widen the choice of places to live for Gypsies and Travellers.
The response of local planning authorities to this process has
in our experience been very mixed. Some have challenged the evidence
base and attempted to minimise provision. The attempt by regional
planners to widen choice by ensuring that every district makes
some modest provision has been opposed by some local authorities
affected, though some recognised the principle of equity involved.
The SE Panel report
was severely critical of the approach of some of the local authorities
and local authority groupings:
1.8 We have found many shortcomings in the
evidence base due to the different methodologies in the GTAAs
and TSAAs but this is not surprising considering much of the work
was undertaken in 2006 and 2007 and the methodology was not tried
and tested as, for instance, in assessing other housing needs.
What was more surprising is the lack of regard by some authorities
of the evidence base they did have in their GTAAs. Although
attempts were made to reach the communities there were some major
shortcomings, particularly concerning those gypsy and travellers
in housing and the New Travellers.
Even taking into account
these caveats, we found the overall standard of the GTAAs as a
sound and credible evidence base for gypsy and traveller pitch
accommodation needs to be very disappointing. .
2.59 Much of the other evidence we had was
anecdotal, but Friends Families and Travellers (FFT)
provided us with a considerable amount of evidence
paints a consistent and convincing counter-balance to the findings,
assumptions and conclusions of the GTAAs. .
Lessons will have been learned
from the first round and our criticisms of many of the GTAAs in
this Report should be seen as guidance in formulating a methodology
and analysis which provides a more focussed, robust and consistent
evidence base on which to identify the need for gypsy and traveller
pitches across the region. In our view the three guiding principles
should be transparency, simplicity and the close involvement of
both the gypsy and traveller and settled communities so that the
process is seen as legitimate and the assessment seen as credible.
To a large extent the failure to put these principles at the heart
of the process in this first round of GTAAs has been the root
cause of much of the dispute over the legitimacy and credibility
of the figures and has diverted attention and resources away from
the crucial issue of pitch delivery.
The benchmarking exercise
undertaken for the East RSS Partial review found that only one
GTAA was robust, one acceptable, three underestimated needs and
one overestimated need. Clearly there is some way to go until
local GTAAs can be relied upon without independent evaluation.
The RSS process has allowed a regional perspective
to be taken and allowed shortcomings to be identified and recommendations
made. Failure to do this in the future will jeopardise the progress
made so far and will not help ensure that the evidence base is
more credible and more uniformly robust.
Implications of abolition of regional housing
targets for levels of housing development
We are of the opinion that the abolition of pitch
targets for local authorities will inevitably mean a serious reduction
in the number of pitches planned for. The SE RSS Draft Policy
H7 recommended a regional residential pitch allocation of 1,064
but the panel report recommended a residential pitch allocation
of 2,119. Clearly to leave it up to local authorities to decide
for themselves how many pitches will be delivered would inevitably
mean a shortfall of at least 1,000 pitches in the South East.
This is a 50% shortfall. Hence abolition of regional housing targets
will impact negatively and disproportionately on Gypsies and Travellers
in their search for sites. A leaked letter from the Equalities
Minister (9June 2010) to the Chancellor said that "I think
we should take a collective view on the cumulative impact of cuts,
and whether any action should be taken to spread the impact more
equitably, to avoid widening inequality." We have grave concerns
that the abolition of targets for Gypsy and Traveller sites will
do just this and widen inequality.
We do note that the Liberal Democrats, during the
election stated that " we are not intending to disturb the
planning already in place for providing traveller sites".
The negative view held by many people of the Travelling
Community has led to a widespread NIMBY approach to site development.
Historically the lack of some form of duty to make provision (whether
it be actual sites or merely planning provision) has meant that
needs have not been met and the growth of a backlog of unmet need.
Not meeting needs or even attempting to meet accommodation needs
has severe consequences for the families in need but also to the
public purse requiring conventional housing provision and increased
costs related to enforcement activities (estimated at 18 million
per year in 2000 by Cardiff Law School). It is inevitable that
the trend of unauthorised camping, unauthorised developments and
associated on costs to the public purse will increase in a climate
of reduced planning provision, reduced opportunity for people
providing for themselves and increased emphasis on enforcement.
Already local authorities are responding to the announcement
of the abolition of RSSs.
In Huntingdonshire, where there was huge local opposition
to a site put forward by the council as part of the LDF Site selection
process in the village of Yaxley (1000 people are reported by
the BBC as attending the meeting), the council recently said during
a planning appeal Inquiry that it no longer accepted there is
a need for additional provision following the scrapping of the
Plan (the RSS). The RSS
indicated a need for 25 pitches to 2011 and a further 21 to 2021.
The Greater Norwich Joint Core Strategy alteration
recently put forward the contention that although the council
would meet identified needs to 2011 beyond that date it would
decide what local provision it would make without indicating either
numbers or how it would decide on those numbers.
In Reigate and Banstead
the council has redrafted a policy to indicate that they will
meet the needs of Gypsies and Travellers according to the latest
GTAA assessmentthis would mean a 15% reduction on recommended
pitch requirements from the SE Panel report.
new proposals aim to identify land for 11 new pitches, the SE
Panel report identified a need for 48.
In Epping Forest
work on a well advanced dedicated DPD has been abandoned and future
provision will be dealt with on a case by case basis and provision
for the next 15-10 years will be subject of a further study alongside
In London Policy 3.9
has been the subject of a number of alterations and one more is
due shortly. The alterations have meant that the overall needs
assessment of some 800 residential pitches (according to the GTAA)
has been reduced to just over 200. We fear that the next and final
alteration will mean there will be no targets at all for pitches
for boroughs. The inevitable result will in our view be that few
pitches will be built in London despite a large identified need
and the resultant demand will spill over into adjoining regions.
No allowance has been made for this.
site allocation has been abandoned in favour a return to relying
on individual planning applications. No pitch targets have been
proposed though a need for a transit site was identified. The
RSS indicated a need for 30 residential pitches to 2011.
The abolition of the RSS requirement will mean delay
in delivering planning documents and ultimately pitches.
In Ipswich the Planning Inspector halted the Inquiry
for five months and stated that the evidence base for Gypsies
and Travellers would have to be reviewed (despite already being
subject to a regional EiP);
this implies yet further delay.
Most of the RSS reports make recommendations about
regional review given evidence base problems. We fear that without
some sort of regional structure coordinated reviews will not be
undertaken and inevitably this will mean a disparity in approach.
Given the negative views of the Travelling Community
held by part of the settled community, councils have relied on
the argument that they have to make provision because of the regional
planning structure. Without the requirement to make provision
it will make it very difficult for councils to resist the often
racially motivated local demands to reduce or even eliminate provision.
This will impact negatively on provision exacerbating the problems
which the Travelling Community faces in trying to access suitable
The abolition of a regional planning structure and
the formal examination which attends it will impact severely on
representations by the Travelling Community about planning policy
matters. FFT/TLRP employ a part time worker on planning policy
development and we believe there is one other worker who responds
to some planning consultations in the West Midlands. . The FFT/TLRP
worker responds in writing to LDF policy documents in England
and Wales and has attended and given evidence at four regional
EiPs. The panel report for the SE EiP said:
2.59 Much of the other evidence we had was
anecdotal, but Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) a national
body representing the needs and interests of gypsy and traveller
communities who had contributed to the Examinations of the Gypsy
and Traveller RSS Reviews in the South West and East of England
provided us with a considerable amount of evidence,
including statistical data from their own generally small scale
surveys, and others. While this information had its limitations,
which could be ascribed to the scarce resources with which FFT
has to operate, and much of the evidence could be described as
anecdotal, as a body of information from those most directly affected
by the shortage of appropriate accommodation for gypsies and travellers,
it paints a consistent and convincing counter-balance to the findings,
assumptions and conclusions of the GTAAs. FFT also made a very
valuable contribution to the EiP as the principal "representative"
of the gypsy and traveller community, alongside that of the Showmen's
Guild, representing travelling showpeople.
If in future the issue has to be argued out at local
level through examinations of Local Development Frameworks of
the 300 or so local authorities then there is no prospect of the
Travelling Community being properly represented on matters of
the level of provision at local examinations in public. The low
level of engagement of the Travelling Community and the complexity
of planning issues mitigates against local representation. With
a few exceptions local authority engagement with the local Travelling
community has been inadequate or tokenistic and cannot be relied
upon to deliver adequately the views of the Travelling community
on the likely level of need for pitches. One or two part time
workers cannot provide the level of representation needed and
the current economic climate means that expansion of this service
is unlikely to take place. Hence the lack of regional planning
will inevitably mean that community involvement will be inadequate
at best. Local assessments of need will go unchallenged and targets
will be inadequate, grossly so in some cases.
Likely effectiveness of incentives and the nature
and level of incentives to ensure an adequate supply of housing
We are very sceptical about the effect of incentives
(New Homes Bonus) when applied to the very small numbers of pitches
when compared with overall housing needs (less than 1% of overall
housing needs). Pressures brought whenever sites are proposed
means councils are unlikely to find that incentives make it worth
their while to plan for an adequate number of pitches no matter
what the incentives on offer. The previous government provided
100 million for new sites and for refurbishment of existing sites.
The response of housing providers has been very disappointing
in the face of 100% funding. Most of the money spent has gone
on refurbishment and few new pitches have been developed but more
disconcerting is the poor uptake of the last tranche of funding
in the East. The available money for 2009 was underbid despite
efforts by the Homes and Community Agency to encourage housing
providers to become involved.
Hence FFT/TLRP place little faith in incentives as
a means of ensuring proper planning provision and delivery. The
fact that 100% grants were unused suggest that the incentives
route of encouragement of provision is bound to fail.
We see no alternative to compulsion as existed under
the RSS system to ensure that reasonable planning provision is
Arrangements to ensure cooperation between local
planning authorities on matters formerly covered by Regional Spatial
Whilst there are some existing examples of councils
cooperating on producing a joint approach to planning provision
(eg in Dorset), they are concerned deliver pitch numbers already
decided upon at regional level. Cross border cooperation in deciding
on numbers to be provided will we fear lead to endless to debate
over who provides what and inevitable large delays; never mind
the opportunity for manipulating target pitch numbers downwards.
Adequacy of proposals including duty to cooperate
and that Local Enterprise Board will fulfil a planning function
Unless there are penalties for local authorities
in relation to the effectiveness of cooperative arrangements we
have little faith, given the evidence presented by various local
authorities at the EiP, that cooperation will be positive or indeed
possible over agreeing numbers of pitches to be provided and their
location. Delay will ensue and it is likely that the efforts to
increase the locational choice for the Travelling community will
If the Local enterprise Board fulfils a planning
function in relation to pitch provision it should have similar
powers those in the regional planning system to set targets and
mediate between competing councils to ensure that provision is
adequate and appropriate to meet needs.
How will data formerly collected by Leaders Boards
be made available to local authorities and what arrangements should
be put in place to ensure effective updating of research and collection
of further research on matters crossing local authority boundaries
There will be a need to ensure that arrangements
can be out into place regarding reviews of the needs of Gypsies
and Travellers and to ensure that future needs assessments are
carried out uniformly across the country, progress towards provision
monitored, delivery issues examined and that updated GTAAs are
much more robust. Without some sort of oversight and monitoring
arrangements we fear that the disparate range of approaches criticised
in the EiPs will continue and that future provision will fall
woefully short of what is needed.
55 ODPM Circular 1-2006, Planning for Gypsy and Traveller
South East Regional Spatial Strategy Gypsy and Traveller Panel
report-released under FOI request by Planning Inspectorate August
Preparing Regional Spatial Strategy Reviews on Gypsies and Travellers
by regional planning bodies, CLG in partnership with GOEAST and
EERA/SWERA/SWRA, March 2007. Back
Accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople
in the East Of England July 2009. Back
Joint Core Strategy for Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk:
Statement of Focussed Changes Jul 2010. Back
Banstead and Reigate Core Strategy proposed Changes July 2010. Back
Elmbridge Borough Council Core Strategy: Post Submission Consultation
August 2010. Back
decision by full council of Epping Forest District Council 27
July 2010. Back
Mayor of London : Minor Alteration to the Consultation Draft Replacement
London Plan Draft Policy 3.9 Gypsies and Travellers March 2010. Back
Peterborough Core Strategy-Suggested Changes regarding provision
for Gypsies and Travellers, August 2010. Back
Letter from Inspector to Ipswich BC, 30 July 2010. Back
FFT Representations to PINS on Draft Policy H7, August 2009,
No.67a & b, and Statements to EiP on most Issues. Back