Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group (HPB 79)

1. Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group is a voluntary group that has been in existence for almost 30 years. In 2003 we won the Queens Golden Jubilee award for voluntary work. We won the Queens Home Office Award 2004 (in conjunction with Derbyshire police) for Innovative Police Training. We have at our earliest conception worked to provide sites in a non confrontational way.

2. We ran a successful project between 2007 and 2012 that allowed us to input into local borough plans across the East Midlands and we worked hard to increase provision. As an example figures showed, that for Derbyshire County Council land unauthorised encampments fell from 54 to 9 on Derbyshire County land.(A safe place to be Project)

3. It is important that we have a mechanism to assist Gypsy and Traveller families with their accommodation needs. Section 84 of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 proposes deleting s225 and s226 of the 2004 Housing Act, (this requires councils to assess the accommodation needs of Travellers and Gypsies when assessing housing needs as required by Section 8 of the Housing Act 1985).

4. The implications of removing these clauses are huge, it will put the community at a disadvantage, already it is recognised that needs were not being addressed and there is a well known historical time line to these problems.

5. The changes introduced through the August 2015 update of DCLG Planning Policy for Traveller Sites amended the planning definition by removing the words ‘or permanently’. This will mean it will be harder to get accommodation for the elderly, long term sick and single women. It is contrary to Equality and Human Rights legislation, and risks challenge in the Courts. It is therefore important to keep the s226 definition.

6. Deleting s225 & s226 will mean that two of the oldest ethnic groups in the country will again not have their accommodation planned for; this is the important thing aspect, the need to plan so that there are less unauthorised camps springing up and it save costs in the long-term.

7. What are families going to do in the future? This proposed measure will worsen the situation instead of improving life chances, it will make it even harder to get planning permission for Gypsy and Traveller residential sites, particularly for the elderly, long term sick, and single women, and this in turn will impact on children.

8. We do not know where the Government obtains its figures in relation to Gypsy and Traveller families and provision. We do not accept that there has been a huge increase in Gypsy and Traveller families, camping unlawfully.

9. Many planning application decisions post the 2006 Circular were for temporary permissions of two or three years, there needs to be improved scrutiny of figures, families who may not have had a further permission end up back on the road side.

10. This measure will not assist local authorities at all, we work with many local and borough councils, we have all worked together recently on the Derbyshire wide GTAA assessment. It is important to work togther as it saves local authorities money.

11. Local plans have been improved with the input on Gypsy and Traveller provision. Planning Inspectors have reviewed and advised local authorities on the accommodation issues identified in unsound plans.

12. We mentioned 9 unauthorised encampments at the start of this submission, this relates to just two families. We have been working with authorities to identify land and this is for the most vulnerable.

13. We would hope that we retain s225 and s226 and importantly give it time to work, Gypsy and Traveller people are just a small percentage in our land. As small ethnic minority groups there should be assistance within the law to address the accommodation that is needed.

14. What is the intention of this proposed measure, why make this change, what is the Government hoping to achieve by this?

November 2015

Prepared 24th November 2015