Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Community Law Partnership (HPB 35)

Housing and Planning Bill Part 5 section 84 and its impact on Gypsies and Travellers

Introduction

1. The Government have recently published the Housing and Planning Bill. This paper sets out the implications of section 84 with regard to the impact on Gypsies and Travellers. The Bill’s first reading was on the 13th October 2015. A date for the second reading has yet to be announced. The relevant provision is as follows:

84 Assessment of accommodation needs

(1) In section 8 of the Housing Act 1985 (periodical review of housing needs), after
subsection (2) insert-

"(3) In the case of a local housing authority in England, the duty under
10subsection (1) includes a duty to consider the needs of people residing
in or resorting to their district with respect to the provision of-

(a) sites on which caravans can be stationed, or

(b) places on inland waterways where houseboats can be moored.

(4) In subsection (3)-

"caravan" has the meaning given by section 29 of the Caravan Sites
and Control of Development Act 1960;

"houseboat" means a boat or similar structure designed or
adapted for use as a place to live.""

(2) In the Housing Act 2004 omit sections 225 and 226 (accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers).

2. It is our view that this provision will have significant adverse consequences for the Gypsy and Traveller community who are amongst the most marginalised in society.

What the provision mean in practise

3. In essence, the provision would remove the duty on local housing authorities to assess the specific accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers (and also Travelling Showpeople) residing or resorting to their area, and the guidance on how this is undertaken. These communities accommodation needs would then be ‘brought under one roof’ with general housing need assessment.

Why this is a problem

4. Whilst some may see the logic in this, the effect would mean that Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs are buried within general housing need. These are traditionally hard to reach groups, and as such require focused guidance for local authorities to assess their needs. Such guidance is provided by sec. 226 of the Housing Act at present. Much time and resource is currently spent by those representing Gypsies and Travellers challenging the robustness of needs assessments. The current guidance is vital in ensuring that local authorities carry out worthwhile assessments of need.

No consultation

5. This provision has not had any consultation. The recent consultation on Planning and Traveller sites did propose the revision of existing guidance on the application of the duty to assess the need of Gypsies and Travellers under sec.225/226 of the Housing Act 2004 and the amendment of the Housing regulations 2006 definition (see below). The current proposal is manifestly different and the Gypsy and Traveller communities and those representing them have not been consulted.

The provisions in the context of the Equality Duty

6. In our view this provision offends the Public Sector Equality Duty given that Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised ethnic minorities. The Government in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites acknowledges that there is a shortage of suitable sites for Gypsies and Travellers. The removal of the sec. 225/226 of the Housing Act 2004 will without doubt lead to the under provision of suitable sites as the needs of Gypsies and Travellers will not be properly addressed in specific accommodation assessments. This will lead to a compounded inequality of access to suitable accommodation for these ethnic minorities.

The provisions in the context of the Human Rights Act 1998

7. The European Court of Human Rights [1] have held that the UK has an obligation to facilitate the traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers. If enacted, this provision would not do this for reasons outlined above.

Proposed amendment

8. We would ask MPs to support our proposed amendment which retains secs.225/226 of the Housing Act 2004 in order to ensure that Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs are assessed properly.

November 2015


[1] Chapman v United Kingdom [2001] 33 E.H.R.R. 18

Prepared 17th November 2015