Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Written evidence from the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups (ARSS 109)

The National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups is dismayed at the changes that are being proposed by this present coalition government.

We consider that over the past five years, there has been an increased understanding of the Gypsy Traveller cultural need to live in caravans, and that the circular 01/2006 was beginning to work quite well. It was a mechanism to provide sites when districts and boroughs were reluctant to provide for a variety of reasons.

The amendments to the Housing Act 2004 assisted the whole process and we felt that we were finally getting somewhere which was a benefit for all.

The problem for local district and boroughs with regard to Gypsy Planning applications, is the "not in my backyard syndrome". Whilst we can agree that it is good that local people have a say in what is happening to their neighbourhood, unfortunately this kind of localism also keeps people out, not just Gypsy people, but it may be the planning for a Special Needs complex of flats or a Special Needs school. Unfortunately these applications are dealt the same kind of NIMBYISM as Gypsy applications are.

The sad thing about localism is that many Gypsy people are local to more than one place, and have been for hundreds of years. Very often, the makeup of the small towns and villages where their families travelled to and from has been changed by outsiders in the past 20-30 years.

It is often the case that the outsider becomes the committed committee goer and the one that will lead the petition against anything and everyone—not just Gypsies. This is the one that seems to cement the worst of ill feeling, regardless of the fact that the name of a Gypsy soldier may be on the village or town war memorial along side that of a committee member's uncle or father.

We cannot see how the situation on site provision is going to improve when the grant to provide sites has been effectively withdrawn; this means that there will be no pitches created without private applications. There are some families that are never going to be able to afford their own land and provide pitches for themselves.

Families that can provide for themselves are going to be in a catch 22 situation if pitch numbers from the RSS are now going to be ignored. This, coupled with the danger of localism becoming "ultra localism" will cause real problems.

There are many Gypsy families that are willing to provide their own small sites, but if the circular 01/2006 is to be replaced, we worry as to the consequence.

Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group has undertaken numerous planning cases and it fears that there will be a return to the bad old days of continuous eviction, especially if there is no good sound policy to make a positive legal change. Surely it is more useful to discuss positive changes before acting on the perceived localism view

It is far better to work with one another than be in an entrenched position. We understand that CALA homes has issued a Judicial Review against CLG. We are an interested party regarding that case, we believe it covers many concerns as to the process of law in this country.

We would ask that before any change happens to the planning system, the Regional Spatial Strategy, or the 01/2006 circular, that there is adequate time to reflect, discuss and bring about a positive proactive policy on Gypsy site provisions that can be through a mixture of provision, by:

1.  A return to the duty for local authorities to provide some pitches.

2.  The encouragement and assistance for private site provision.

We would like a network of sites to be overseen by CLG, bearing in mind the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities we understand that Britain was to update on this framework every five years. How is the present Government going to answer to this Framework?

We have yet to recieve a reply as to whether a Race Impact Assessment was undertaken before the decision to revoke the Regional Spatial Strategies was made.

We hope that some consideration will be made to the fact that a small minority group will be affected quite badly by this decision and we are willing to assist in any discussions that may come about to bring about a positive outcome.

September 2010

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