'Kicking the can down the road' - Landmark new report on Traveller site provision released

29 November 2023
Kicking the can down the road: New report on site provision over the past 60 years

'Kicking the Can down the Road', a new report by Friends, Families and Travellers and written by a top Traveller site planning expert, is a must-read for anyone working on or interested in Traveller site planning, provision and policy

  • Over two-thirds of England's local planning authorities had failed to include Traveller sites in their development plans -  despite 29 years of government policy and guidance that required them to do so
  • 119 socially rented sites were built from 1960 to 1994, with only 30 built since then.

Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) have released a new report titled ‘Kicking the can down the road: The planning and provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites in England 1960-2023‘, authored by Dr Simon Ruston MRTPI. The report looks at the planning system’s approach to Gypsy and Traveller sites since 1960 with a specific focus from 1994 onwards, following a series of legislative changes, such as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Sarah Mann, Chief Executive Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers, said that Kicking the Can down the Road was a landmark report that critically examined what has and hasn’t worked over the last 60 years in terms of Gypsy and Traveller site provision.

“So far, evidence of the constant reduction of living spaces for Gypsy and Traveller people has been almost solely anecdotal and disjointed,” said Sarah Mann.

“Now, this report offers an extensive review of how decades of government policy and local authority negligence have led to today’s accommodation crisis for Gypsies and Travellers in England,” she added.

“Offering solutions towards increasing safe stopping places and providing secure accommodation for Gypsy and Traveller communities, this report is essential reading for anyone working to understand and course-correct the state of site provision in England.”

Kicking the Can down the Road

Split in three parts, the report explores the history of site provision policy and law; the effectiveness of local authorities in meeting Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs since the removal of the statutory duty to provide sites; and examples of good practice and recommendations.

Of 100 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in England, the research found that:

  • 64% had failed to allocate sites as part of the development plan process, despite 29 years of government policy and guidance that required this;
  • There were 149 socially provided sites across the 100 LPAs, 119 of which were built before 1994, with only 30 built since then (after the statutory duty to provide sites had been revoked).

The research also focuses on 15 different LPAs in more detail, including (amongst others) Brighton, Bristol, Cornwall, Leeds, Manchester, Southwark and Wirral. From the 15 LPAs, the report by Dr Simon Ruston MRTPI found that:

  • Planning appeal inspectors were finding that due to a lack of alternative sites, the presence of a 5-year land supply is a poor indication of whether or not an LPA is meeting its need;
  • In some cases, the needs of Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks-and-mortar were being missed entirely in accommodation needs assessments;
  • There was no real consequence for LPAs in areas where there was no accommodation provision for Gypsy and Traveller people;
  • In one case, a company conducting a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTAA/GTANA) counted ‘turnover’ of tenants as supply;
  • A number of local plans had been adopted without site allocations for Gypsies and Travellers on the basis of commitments from LPAs to meet the need in future document, which did not materialise.

As a primary recommendation, the report calls for:

  • Re-introduction of a statutory duty to provide sites with proper funding measures; as well as
  • Restoration of the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites 2012 definition;
  • Adoption of negotiated stopping policies across all local authorities; and
  • Amendment of national Green Belt policy to create very special circumstances where the need for public site provision can outweigh the harm.

The report also makes multiple further recommendations to increase and improve Gypsy and Traveller site provision, particularly in reference to engaging with Gypsy and Traveller communities, improving policies to ensure needs are met, establishing more robust measures of effectiveness, and creating new guidance on Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments.

Kicking the Can down the Road
2016 - Gypsies, Roma and Travellers collect in Parliament Square to demonstrate against the Government’s new planning laws redefining ‘gypsy status’ © Hazel Marsh

Recently, 2021 Census data indicates that many within the Gypsy and Traveller communities need socially provided accommodation, with 44% of Gypsy and Traveller respondents renting in social housing, compared with all ethnic groups at 17%.

Access to secure accommodation remains a major contributor towards improving wider determinants of health, and with Gypsy and Traveller people considered to have life expectancies between 10 and 25 years shorter than the general population, this study presents a strong case for better site provision.

Speaking about Kicking the can down the road: The planning and provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites in England 1960-2023, Dr Simon Ruston MRTPI said that the report continues to build upon the tireless work of many others whom have been working on Gypsy and Traveller planning matters for many years, pushing for a fair and just approach to Gypsy and Traveller people’s accommodation needs.

“As the research shows, positive Government action is not only necessary but long overdue. The recommendations in the report will hopefully provide a useful blueprint for reform that would lead to real benefits for Gypsy and Traveller communities across England,” added Simon Ruston.

FFT press release/TT News

(Lead photograph: The Meriden Traveller site under development. Meriden Traveller site became a news staple in the national and local media for three years around 2010, after local residents and other non-local supporters ganged-up to successfully campaign to get the site evicted © Damian Le Bas)