Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Enabling Gypsies, Roma and Travellers

The Welsh Government are consulting on a replacement to the Travelling to a Better Future Framework for Action and Delivery Plan (2011). The new document, Enabling Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is very positive and we would encourage people to send in submissions. You can find details here:

The deadline for submissions is December 21. TAT have produced a joint submission with Marc Willers QC and Dr Simon Ruston of Ruston Planning.

Here is that submission:

Response of Community Law Partnership, Garden Court Chambers Gypsy Roma Traveller Team and Ruston Planning

Generally speaking we welcome this consultation. We are concentrating on the issues that we specialise in, namely accommodation issues. However, we welcome many of the other proposals as well.

Going through the main actions in the order they are presented in the paper:-

Regional Community Cohesion Coordinators will be funded to provide cohesion support around proposed and approved Gypsy and Traveller sites

We welcome the idea of coordinators as quite often there can be considerable issues around the perception of the impact of a new site. Any opportunity to address such perceptions should be applauded. The training of elected members is something we would fully support in particular. However, we would note that, since the Housing (Wales) Act (HWA) 2014 we have come across cases where Welsh local authorities are ignoring the needs of Gypsies and Travellers who instruct us. We also note the July 2017 Welsh Caravan Count showed 4% of caravans on unauthorised developments and 9% of caravans on unauthorised encampments (albeit we appreciate that the number of unauthorised sites has decreased). We believe the time has come for action against those local authorities who are ignoring the provisions of HWA 2014 by the Welsh Government using their powers under HWA 2014 section 104. The lessons of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 (when the duty under that Act was in force and before its repeal by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) were that insufficient sites were brought into being because of lack of central Government action even though central Government had powers to take action.

Ensure sufficient pitches are provided to meet the identified needs across Wales

We fully support this but see what we say above and below.

The Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 Schedule 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 para. 14 and Chapter 4 para. 44 concern re-siting of the mobile home and are in very similar terms to the English provisions contained in the Mobile Homes Act 1983 with one important major exception. The major exception is that, if a broadly comparable pitch on another site is offered and the Residential Property Tribunal holds that it is reasonable for the mobile home to be stationed there, other than in situations involving repairs or works, then the owner does not have to allow the occupier to return to his/her original pitch. Effectively this allows site owners to evict Gypsies and Travellers from their plots and we wonder whether this result can really have been intended. As we say above in England it is different in that the resident must be given the opportunity of returning to his/her plot once the refurbishment or repair works are completed. We would urge the Welsh Government to reconsider this provision.

Provide sufficient Sites Grant Funding to ensure local authorities are able to create the required number of authorised Gypsy and Traveller pitches in the area

We fully support this.

Government Designing and Managing Gypsy and Traveller Sites Guidance

We fully support this section.

Review awareness and accessibility of Residential Property Tribunals for Residents of Local Authority Gypsy and Traveller sites

Legal Aid is not available for Tribunal cases and, given the problems of literacy and educational attainment amongst the Gypsy and Traveller community, representation will usually be required before such Tribunals if any applications or defences to any action are to be successful. Exceptional Cases Funding is extremely hard to obtain. There are a lot of important issues being dealt with by these Tribunals such as:- written statements; repairs; pitch fees; re-siting of mobile homes etc. The Welsh Government needs to address the lack of funding which is a very serious issue in terms of Tribunal representation.

Monitor the effectiveness of the planning system in enabling appropriate site provision.

We note that a new Planning Circular is to be produced and we look forward to seeing that and commenting upon it.

Eligible Gypsies and Travellers living on unauthorised sites will be able to access energy efficiency advice and support through the Welsh Government

We support this.

Ensure Local Authorities are supported to develop a network of transit sites across Wales to facilitate the nomadic Gypsy and Traveller way of life

We fully support this but note that there is desperate need for transit site provision. We would also suggest that the Welsh Government look at the Negotiated Stopping model piloted in Leeds as an example of facilitating the nomadic way of life of Gypsies and Travellers[1].

Support consistent humane and effective resolution of unauthorised camping which respects the rights of Gypsies and Travellers in the wider community

We support this section and the promotion of protocols and the continuation of the Welsh Government Guidance on ‘Managing Unauthorised Camping’.

Implement the new Caravan Count System to ensure unauthorised encampments and developments are recorded and understood

We support this but it is important that non-reporting local authorities should be penalised for failure to report.