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

Today, Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) 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.

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LPAs, 119 of which were built before 1994, with only 30 built since then (after the statutory duty to provide sites had been revoked).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.

This 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.

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:

This 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.

On the importance of this report, Sarah Mann, Chief Executive Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers stated:

“This landmark report critically examines 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. 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.

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.”





About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)

Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works to end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and to protect the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.

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Communications Team

Email: [email protected]

Additional Resources

‘Kicking the can down the road: The planning and provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites in England 1960-2023’. Dr Simon Ruston for Friends, Families and Travellers. November 2023. Read here.

‘Kicking the can down the road: The planning and provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites in England 1960-2023 Executive Summary’. Dr Simon Ruston for Friends, Families and Travellers. November 2023. Read here.

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