Government addresses Security of Tenure

Government issue statement that addresses Security of Tenure issue:


Friends, Families and Travellers response:

We welcome the government’s intention to introduce security of tenure on local authority Gypsy sites, as they have been obliged to do this since the 2004 ruling in the European Court of Human Rights; so this has been awaited for a long time.

However we find the other proposals worrying.

Why did this government scrap the sites grants that were available under the Homes and Communities Agency only to replace them with New Homes Bonus Scheme?  We are unclear as to how this Bonus Scheme will work as the details have not been provided yet.

It is a myth that Travellers are bypassing planning regulations that others have to abide by.  Retrospective planning applications are common from all sections of society for various things; it would be discriminatory to legislate against one small ethnic group making retrospective planning applications, when the majority of retrospective planning applications from the wider society were allowed to continue.

There is no need to withdraw Circular 01/06 and replace it with ‘light touch’ guidance.  ‘Light touch’ sounds exactly that; what action is this government going to take to actually resolve Travellers’ severe accommodation needs, rather than keep bashing them for having them, and removing all the legislation that is there with the intention of actually resolving the problem?  There are no measures the government is introducing to actually resolve the problem and provide the estimated 5,000 pitches that are needed in England alone.

Lord Avebury responses in The Guardian letter page:

Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, is wrong to give the impression that giving Travellers on local authority sites security of tenure is an innovation by this government (Pickles unveils crackdown on unapproved Traveller sites, 30 August). It follows from section 318 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, which stems in turn from a 2004 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, that treating Gypsies and Travellers less favourably than other tenants of mobile homes was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Implementing this ruling is very welcome, but it applies to less than half the Travellers in England. Nearly one in five are on unauthorised sites, which are to be the target of stronger enforcement powers.

This is not “putting fairness back into communities” as Mr Pickles claims. The right way is to ensure that local authorities grant planning permission for enough sites to accommodate Travellers, for the simple reason they have nowhere else to go. Letting 368 councils decide individually how many pitches they will allow is a recipe for inaction, and promising undefined financial incentives to councils to develop sites themselves cannot have greater effect than the 100% new sites grant which Mr Pickles has abolished.

Given the reluctance of councils to allocate land for Travellers, Mr Pickles is foolish to scrap the existing site targets and the prospect of government intervention where councils fail to act. That was the right way to ensure that sites would be provided, and thus unauthorised encampments eliminated.

Eric Avebury

Lib Dem, House of Lords

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