Not Enough Sites For Gypsy/Travellers in the UK

29 October 2003

On May 10, 2003, local non-Romani residents angrily protested against the placement of a mobile home in place of a caravan on a piece of land legally purchased by a group of Travellers in Pucklechurch, near Bristol in southern England, according to the BBC of May 12, 2003. Mr Bruce Williams, a local non-Romani resident, was quoted in the daily as having stated, "We have nothing against Gypsies. We are objecting to the erosion of greenbelts: We don't want to see houses being built without legal permission." Planning permission was originally denied, but an appeal is pending with the South Gloucestershire Council, the BBC reported.

Earlier, on April 8, 2003, the BBC reported that following the refusal of planning permission for a caravan site in Nazeing near Harlow, north of London, the London-based Romani organisation Romany Guild, together with a number of families, filed an appeal with the Epping Forest District Council. The BBC quoted a representative of the Council, who stated that the site is not appropriate because of "material erosion of the openness of the countryside and damage to the landscape, loss of agricultural land and conservation interests." However, Traveller families whose children attend school in the area already owned several plots of land.

According to the BBC of March 27, 2003, thirty-five Traveller families comprising around two hundred people were ordered to move from a plot of land at Bulkington in Warwickshire, southern England. The High Court had ordered the eviction of the group, which had reportedly built roads on the land without planning permission, in December 2002. The Travellers, who argued that they were forced to build on the site due to a lack of suitable sites, were prevented from appealing the decision of the High Court.

Previously, the South Shropshire District Council in southern England refused planning permission to a group of Travellers for the continuation of a privately run site at Wheatcommon Lane, on which the group had lived for several years, according to the BBC of March 6, 2003. Locals reportedly opposed the Traveller's application, citing concerns about the appearance of the site, noise and health issues.

According to a fact sheet of the Traveller Law Research Unit (TLRU) at the Cardiff Law School, while 80 percent of all planning permission applications are approved, 90 percent of applications submitted by Gypsy/Travellers are refused. Due to a lack of authorised sites, approximately one third of Gypsy/Travellers and the majority of other Travellers are reportedly forced to stop on illegal sites. The TLRU stated that Travellers stopping at such sites are often evicted and forced to move from place to place.

On May 7, 2003, the BBC reported that Mr David Atkinson, a Member of Parliament, obtained a second chance to pass the Traveller Law Reform Bill. The bill seeks to amend current legislation in the area of site provision for Gypsy/Travellers. The bill also forsees the establishment of a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Commission to monitor and provide guidance on the provision of adequate accommodation for Gypsy/Travellers. Although site provision for Gypsy/Travellers is currently under the auspices of the Department of Environment, under the Traveller Law Reform Bill, the Commission will be independent of the Department.

(BBC, ERRC, Traveller Law Research Unit)


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