Housing and Planning Bill

ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP GYPSIES TRAVELLERS ROMA (HPB 87)

Submission to the Public Bill Committee Housing and Planning Bill 2015

Section 84 of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 proposes deleting Sections 225 and 226 of the 2004 Housing Act, whereby councils are obliged to conduct a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTAA) (as required by section 8 of the Housing Act 1985), 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.

Since August 31st 2015 , when the Government issued its revised "Planning Policy for Travellers" there is a new requirement on local authorities to plan separately for those who come within the revised planning definition [1] and those needing caravan accommodation – many of whom will be ethnic Gypsies and Travellers. It has become is apparent that already this is starting to result in confusion and uncertainty for local authorities about whether they would be required to assess the needs of Gypsies and Travellers within and outside the new planning definition. How will they tell the difference between who is a Traveller and who is not? In practice, some families will move in and out of the definition.

The planning changes above, coupled with the proposed provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 make for a complex, confusing system. Most local authorities will already have done their housing need assessments and they will not include the needs of Gypsy-Travellers. If the current requirement for specific GTAAs is removed it is not clear how or when local authorities will update their housing need assessments to include Travellers. What safeguards will be put in place to ensure a robust evidence base for local authorities? There could be resource implications resulting in further delays and whilst local authorities try to address the problems, Travellers will still have to live somewhere. If, as it appears, the Government’s aim is to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments the changes are unlikely to be successful.

Rather, the measures are counter-productive. Living by the road-side is no longer safe or possible. There is a great shortage of legal sites, traditional stopping places are closed and the police move people on, so the neighbouring local authority then also has to move them on. People need a secure base to earn a living, and access health care and education. Some local authorities in England have recognized this, and are taking steps to address immediate issues. Notably, in 2008/9 Leeds City Council in partnership with a local Gypsy and Traveller organization, conducted a full GTAA This resulted in realistic figures for the need for new pitches and it also recognized the likely figure for families stopping on the roadside at any one time. The Negotiated Stopping Places initiative has by the councils own admission saved around £2000 every week on previous costs since initiating the policy. [2]   Perhaps the best measure of the softer ‘community cohesion ’ outcomes has been the lack of inflammatory rep orting in local media and by some local politicians.  The policy has gained explicit support from a wide range of stakeholders including local businesses, local councillors, local authority officers, the Police, Gypsy and Traveller families, health and education providers.  

We would urge the Committee to consider taking evidence from Leeds City Council in order to garner a broader picture of measures which could be usefully employed elsewhere and which would benefit both Travellers, councils and local people.

Finally we are seeking advice from the EHRC on whether they regard the Impact Assessment [3] accompanying the Act to be sufficiently robust when applied to Section 84 and further, whether the EHRC is concerned that any aspects of the proposed provision may offend domestic or international obligations .

November 2015


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/457420/Final_planning_and_travellers_policy.pdf

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[2] http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/3m-clean-up-bill-for-illegal-traveller-camps-but-leeds-is-winning-its-pitch-battle-1-7186789

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[3] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/impact-assessments/IA15-010.pdf

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[3] Housing and Planning Bill 2015

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[3] 84 Assessment of accommodation needs

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

[3] “(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—

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

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

[3] (4) In subsection (3)—

[3] “caravan” has the meaning given by section 29 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960;

[3] “ houseboat ” means a boat or similar structure designed or adapted for use as a place to live.””

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

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Prepared 26th November 2015