Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Traveller Movement (HPB 80)

Section 84 of the 2015 Housing and Planning Bill

The Traveller Movement (TM) is a leading national charity, working in partnership with the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities, service providers and policy makers challenging discrimination and promoting inclusion.

Context

- Section 84 of the Housing and Planning Bill proposes to remove Sections 225 and 226 of the 2004 Housing Act that require councils to assess the accommodation needs of Travellers and Gypsies for the purposes of providing Traveller sites when assessing housing needs (as required by Section 8 of the Housing Act 1985).

- As outlined in section 84 (3a) of The Bill reference to Gypsies and Travellers will be removed and replaced by a duty on councils to "consider the needs of people residing in or resorting to their district with respect to the provision of sites on which caravans can be stationed."

- The Housing and Planning Bill Impact Assessment justifies the removal of the duty to assess Gypsies’ and Travellers’ accommodation needs on "a perception of differential treatment in favour of Gypsies and Travellers" in the planning system.

- The Traveller Movement strongly disagree with the removal of the duty to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers, especially on the grounds of a "perception". We firmly believe these changes will exacerbate the existing chronic shortage of Traveller sites in England and result in an increase in unauthorised sites.

Why we disagree

- All available data shows Gypsies and Travellers don’t receive favorable treatment in the planning system:

· The latest DCLG planning application statistics show that Traveller sites are on average 15% less likely to get planning permission when compared to residential swellings

· There is a chronic shortage of Traveller sites in England with EHRC research showing it will take local authorities 27 years to meet their 5 year Traveller site pitch requirements

· The latest DCLG caravan count figures show that 13% of Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans are located on unauthorised sites and as such are legally classified as homeless

- Gypsies and Travellers already experience some of the poorest social outcomes of any group in our society and accommodation is a key determinate of these wider inequalities. The EHRC’s 2015 How Fair is Britain review has evidenced these persistent inequalities and specifically noted that "stigma towards Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in Britain remained an issue of concern’ and that the communities continued to experience ‘bias/hostility." The stigma and hostility these communities face is most prevalent in planning and accommodation issues.

- TM believe section 225/226 is an essential piece legislation which ensures Gypsies’ and Travellers’ accommodation needs are not overlooked and/or ignored by councils. Whilst more needs to be done across the planning system both nationally and locally to address the numerous barriers preventing appropriate provision of Traveller sites, TM firmly believe removal of section 225/226 would in itself result in an immediate reduction in site provision.

- The removal of the duty to assess Gypsies’ and Travellers’ accommodation needs poses the significant danger of further national under-provision of authorised Traveller sites. This would most likely result in an increase in unauthorised sites, having a detrimental impact on these communities’ already poor health and education outcomes aswell as community cohesion and the costs local authorities will incur dealing with them.

- The EHRC, NPCC, Planning Officers Society and a majority of respondents, including many local authorities and public bodies, objected against the key measures in the consultation on the new Planning Policy for Traveller Sites which have informed the section 84 proposals.

What we recommend

- We would urge the Committee to support the retention of Sections 225 and 226 of the 2004 Housing Act for the reasons outlined above.

- We would welcome a wider debate by members of Parliament on how we can best address the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers in England, recognizing that adequate provision of appropriate Traveller sites is the long-term solution to the issue.

November 2015

Prepared 24th November 2015