Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups (HPB 70)

1. NFGLG acts as an umbrella group UK wide. We have assisted the groups in obtaining funding and legal training and we successfully ran a project that encouraged groups to work to PQASSO standards (Performance Quality Assurance for Small Organisations) - 5 groups obtained level 2 and one level 1. We have assisted groups with copyright problems and charity status. The host office runs an advice line. All the groups are concerned at the proposed changes to the Housing and Planning Bill. In relation to Part 5 Section 84 and the proposed removal of Gypsy and Traveller needs assessments s225 & 226

2. Over the past year we have been promoting the recommendations of the "Experts by Experience" report (a briefing paper which reviewed the UK Government’s lack of a Roma [1] Integration Strategy) at both local and national levels. Funding from the Roma Secretariat enabled a thorough review of the UK in relation to 28 commitments it had put forward as a strategy both can be accessed by the following links View the "Expert by Experience" report s here and the civil society report here for background information as they are useful to give an overview of problems.

3. We consider that this proposed legislation is incompatible with the Human Rights Act

Article 8 . There is a failure to recognise Romany Gypsies and Pavee ( Irish Travellers ) who are ethnic groups for the purposes of the Equality Act 201 1 , in r elation to accommodation issues . T he specific minority rights are not enshrined in planning law where they need to be. It is recognised that there are a lack of sites in the country for Romany Gypsy people Chapman v UK [2001] 33 EHRR 399 deals with the lack of sites in relation to ethnic Gypsy and Traveller people.

"The vulnerable position of gypsies as a minority means that some special consideration should be given to their needs and their different lifestyle both in the relevant regulatory framework and in reaching decisions in particular cases…….there is a positive obligation imposed on Contracting States by virtue of Article 8 to facilitate the gypsy way of life" ( P96 ) .

. Article 14 : It is important to recognise the principal set out in Thlimmenos - v - Greece (2001) 31 EHRR 15). This is that basically a people who have not had their needs addressed or have been treated unequally should be treated in a different way to address those inequalities. The travelling community need a helping hand to address the lack of sites .

4: It worries us that the Government have quoted " differential " treatment or the perception of it in relation to Gypsy and Travel ler planning so they are taking steps to remove the clauses within the Housing and Planning Bill. This is an incorrect theory .

5: We consider the present situation in relation to women is another area of discrimination this gives rise to Article 8 and 14 challenges. We are concerned that the legal issues for women in relation to status are not addressed and not taken seriously . There should be more emphasis on what is actually happening for ethnic Gypsy and Traveller people. We would like to be able to meet with the committee to discuss the specific issues in relation to women ( approx 3 members of the Catch 22 Women’s issues group) so that we can explain and discuss the issues in detail.

6: We agree with the Community Law in relation to undercounts, they state that: " The January 2015 DCLG Traveller Count (always an under estimate, of course) showed 13% of Gypsies and Travellers who are living in caravans to be on unauthorised developments and encampments i.e. homeless under the terms of the Housing Act 1996 Section 175 (2) (b).  Given that the caravan count is an underestimate, it may be that a more accurate percentage would be in the region of 20%.  This is in the context where less than 1% of the settled population in England are homeless. "  

7 It is very important that specific GTAAS are kept in place ( Part 5 s 84 s225 and s226 ) that these should not be removed so that Romany Gypsy, Irish Travellers (who prefer their name Pavee ) and Show people can have their accommodation planned for.

8 Many l ocal planning authorities will dismiss any need and may not plan for Gypsy and Traveller site provision (This will clearly lead to deterioration in the situation. )   We also consider that it is important to clarify definition and have enshrined in law the recognition of these relatively s mall ethnic and cultural groups but this is not paramount at this stage the important thing is to keep the needs assessm ents and then review definition at a later stage.

9 We consider that any person taking to a life on the road is one of Human Rights and choice but we think it is extremely important to protect those communities that have no choice to birth or circumstance. There is something morally wrong in a system that could allow any one to take to the road and claim status when families with hundreds of years of cultural history do not always get the provision . This was such a worry that Gypsy groups joined as third party to Massey v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government South Shropshire [ 2008] EWHC 3353. The Oakery Farm Appeal Ref APP/K3225/A/07/2042322 highlights the concerns.

"The main parties agreed at the Inquiry that such sites have been notoriously difficult to find and that if land which is suitable for gypsy and traveller caravan sites is allocated to those who fall outside the definition, it would be even harder to find sites for those who fall within it". (p94)

10 I although we appreciate the Bill in relation to rogue landlords there should be something within the bill in relation to rents and as stated we would like to see a rent cap. The majority of people cannot afford present day rents especially in the cities ; the majority have to claim Housing benefit so in a nutshell the Government is lining the pocket of many landlords .

November 2015

 


[1] Roma within the EU context includes Gypsies and Travellers

Prepared 24th November 2015