Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit (HPB 69)

Section 84 of the Housing and Planning Bill proposes to remove the duty for local authorities to assess the specific needs of Gypsies and Travellers residing in their area, together with the guidance on how to undertake these studies. The intention is to incorporate the needs of Gypsies and Travellers within the general housing needs assessments.

However, general housing needs studies such as Strategic Housing Market Assessments are unable to pick up the needs of marginalised, hard to reach communities such as Gypsies and Travellers. Usually these studies are based on demographic projections which are not disaggregated by ethnicity, and on very limited direct household surveys which are unlikely to be based on significant samples of the Gypsy and Traveller population. Therefore without the specific process and methodology prescribed in the 2007 DCLG Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment Guidance, there is a big risk that the particular needs of this community would be largely underestimated and even completely excluded from local evidence studies.

Without adequate and robust evidence local authorities are unable to produce sound plans for future development in line with national planning policy requirements. As Gypsy and Traveller site provision is generally faced with enormous opposition, it is crucial to have in place positive policies that recognise the full extent of need, as well as site allocations which enable the delivery of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in suitable locations. At the moment, the existence of a dedicated framework for assessing the needs of these communities allows adequate scrutiny of policies and supporting evidence through the local plan consultation and examination process. The changes put forward in the Housing and Planning Bill would impact on the ability of planning inspectors to assess the soundness of local plans.

DCLG have already introduced amendments to the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites which exclude Travellers who cannot demonstrate they are actively nomadic from being counted as needing site accommodation. This affects in a disproportionate way those who have been forced to settle due to insufficient site provision or due to old age, illness and other circumstances such as putting children through education or accessing employment.

We believe the Housing and Planning Bill proposal and the new Planning Policy for Traveller Sites will have severe impacts on Gypsy and Traveller communities, affecting especially their ability to access culturally suitable accommodation and increasing the inequalities they are facing.

Community responses from LGTU Action Group

Local Authority site, Romany Gypsy, Tracie, 42, London

I live on a local authority site in Newham. I am the mother of two children, both my children have spent their whole life on this site. If this law gets passed, my children will not be recognised as Gypsies who have cultural needs and the government will not have to provide them with pitches for their future. They will be seen as settled because they have lived on a site their whole life. My children would like to keep their tradition of living on a site. Just because we do not travel does not mean that my children do not want to live on a site.

Unauthorised Camp, Travelling Irish Traveller. Martina, 26, London

I grew up on a site but when I got married there was no room on my parents pitch. So me and my husband have been travelling for two years in and around London. Do to the law we are evicted and forced to me move on every few days. So even though we would still be recognised under this new law, how would this actually happen when we move from borough to borough so quickly. We are never let to stay long enough in any borough for them to count our needs for pitches.

House Traveller, Bridgette, Irish Traveller

I live in Hackney, in a council house. My name is Bridgette has been on the site waiting list for a pitch on a site in Hackney for 17 years. This new act will mean I will never be able to live on a site because the council will no longer recognise my ethnicity as a Traveller and there for I and my children will now be labelled settle when it comes to planning law. This means that Hackney will suddenly have no travellers on their list and they will never have to build any more sites, because they will think Travellers don’t exist in hackney.

At the moment legally they have to count you as Gypsy and Traveller if you live on a site or in housing. This means that the government have to count you and have to prove that that are looking for sites for Gypsy and Travellers. This new law would mean the government would not have to count you and would not have to build more sites.

Three films have been produced by a London based community action group as response to the Bill to raise awareness of the bill amongst the wider Gypsy and Traveller community.

Published on Oct 22, 2014

Awareness film by the community explaining the changes the Government are trying to make to planning policy that will have a huge impact on Gypsies and Travellers. If these changes go through all Gypsies and Travellers who are not travelling will no longer be counted as needing a pitch on a site. # WeSTILLcount was set up to inform as many people as possible about the changes and suggest things that could be done to stop the Bill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbCIUW927ic&list=UUwKyfMF3ReiFFKbU5RC2kfg&index=1

Published on Nov 3, 2015

Urgent meeting called by members of the Gypsy & Traveller community to discuss the damaging changes to Housing and Planning Bill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXDUFq9d6N8

Published on Nov 17, 2015

Short film from Tracie Giles an activist who is campaigning against the Housing and Planning Bill. # WeSTILLcount The London Gypsy and Traveller Unit is asking the UK Gypsy and Traveller community to make short videos of themselves explaining how the Law would affect their future.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GElBI90QIj0&feature=em-upload_owner

To conclude, the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit is committed to collecting responses from the community to present as evidence during the committee stage of The Housing and Planning Bill. We believe this bill will have severe impacts on Gypsy and Traveller communities, affecting their ability to access culturally suitable accommodation and increasing the inequalities they are already facing with in healthcare and education.

November 2015

Prepared 24th November 2015