Equalities report ‘highlights Government failure to address Gypsy and Traveller accommodation’

17 September 2019
Equalities report ‘highlights Governments failure to address Gypsy and Traveller accommodation’

An Equalities Commission report on the impact of the Government’s law redefining Gypsies and Travellers for planning and accommodation purposes has been endorsed by leading charity Friends, Families and Travellers.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission report found ‘concerning trends’ in the ways local planning authorities are assessing and meeting the need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches in England, following the change to the definition of Gypsies and Travellers under planning policy in 2015. The findings of the new report indicate local authorities are significantly underestimating the need for accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers and families are entering a ‘postcode lottery’ for accommodation provision. Those worst affected by this are elderly, disabled and ill Gypsies and Travellers.

Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers said that the Equalities Commission’s report was yet another one that highlighted the Government’s failure to make any inroads to meet the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers.

“Given this, the fact that the Government are currently reviewing whether to criminalise trespass and increase police evictions powers is beyond belief,” said Abbie Kirby.

Under the revised definition in the Government’s ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’, Gypsies and Travellers who have ceased travelling permanently, which could be due to health reasons or reasons of old age, are no longer considered to be eligible for a pitch in planning terms. The revised definition has no regard to fact Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are defined ethnic groups.

The Equalities Commission research used a sample of 20 local authorities in England that have updated their Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments (GTAA) to reflect the new definition. The findings were that only 25% of assessed households meet the revised more restrictive definition with an alarming drop in identified need for pitches;

‘Across the 20 LPAs the pre-2015 total requirement was for 1,584 further pitches. After the revised definition was introduced, the assessed need fell to just 345’.

For those who no longer meet the revised ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ definition, they are relying on local authorities to consider them in their wider housing allocation policies. The report shows that the majority of the local authorities examined in the research had not considered the need to provide culturally appropriate accommodation to these Gypsies and Travellers.

‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ requires local authorities in England to identify land for a five year supply of specific deliverable Gypsy and Traveller sites. Research conducted in 2016 found that local authorities across the country were failing to comply with this.

Download and read the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report by clicking on the link below:

TT News/FFT press release