In a statement issued to me in the wake of Eric Pickles’ release of yet more guidance explaining to local authorities how to implement the heavy handed techniques to shut down unauthorised Traveller sites his government has introduced ITMB’s Mike Doherty explained how governmental policy has failed to address the real issue behind them.
He said:” The Travellers’ Movement believes that the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) new unauthorised encampment enforcement guidance rehashes old ground and
“inflames prejudice towards the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers.”
“The release of ‘new’ guidance by the DCLG is a rehash of already existing measures introduced by the Coalition Government in a counter-productive and ineffective bid to end squatted Traveller encampments.
“The Government is again failing to address the root causes of these encampments, which is the severe lack of suitable Traveller sites.”
“These measures target homeless Gypsies and Travellers, an extremely marginalised and disadvantaged minority of a minority. Most Travellers who live in caravans live on authorised private or Local Authority sites and pay their taxes, including council taxes, the same as anyone else.
“However, a small minority (14% by national caravan counts) of Travellers have nowhere secure and safe to put their caravans and often end up living by the roadside and on other inappropriate unauthorised encampments. Increased enforcement will not solve this problem and is counter-productive and costly as the homeless Travellers are just moved on and on.
“The solution is more sites, not more enforcement. These powers are not new. Councils are already aware of the powers that they can
use to evict squatted encampments. Amendments’ to Temporary Stop Notice legislation (a planning enforcement measure) has been in force since the end of June and has already been publicised by the Government and is already being used by councils.
Yvonne MacNamara CEO of the Travelers Movement said:
“The Department for Communities and Local Government says yet again that unauthorized encampments and developments by Gypsies and Travellers, and its impact on the settled community, is the major issue, and should be singularly addressed by enforcement. However, this fails to address the root cause which is the national chronic shortage of Gypsy and Traveller sites.”
“Gypsy and Traveller people experience very low average life expectancy and significantly higher rates of suicide and infant and maternal death, which is shocking and shameful in our modern society.”
“As is prejudice and racism towards them from our elected leaders, who should be setting an example with their conduct.
“The use of the word ‘blight’ by the Department of Communities and Local Government to describe homeless Travellers is an indication of this hostility and prejudice and can only inflame prejudice. Homeless Gypsy and Traveller families need safe and secure places to live in order to access services for health, education and citizenship.
“Eric Pickles is again trumpeting enforcement as the solution to Traveller
encampments. This will not solve the issue. The small numbers of Travellers concerned are effectively homeless and have to exist somewhere.
“Enforcement costs taxpayers money and increased enforcement will cost even more money.”
The cost effective solution is to build more sites and to allow temporary permissions in appropriate places until more sites are built.”
“We call upon the Government to encourage Councils to address the root cause of Gypsy and Traveller unauthorized sites and focus on making provision and on using existing planning law in a non-discriminatory way when processing private applications for Traveller sites. This makes more economic sense than costly enforcements which offer no long term sustainable solution.”
“An increase in permanent and transit sites for Romany Gypsies and Travellers means more ratepayers for Councils.”
“Granting planning permission for private sites means less need for councils to provide local authority sites.Well managed Traveller sites bring in revenue for cash-strapped councils. Research shows that initial adverse reaction from some local settled resident’s soon tails off as a well managed site becomes part of the local community. The economic and social costs of unauthorized camps are enormous and impact upon local settled people and on Gypsies and Travellers.”