Sunday, 23 December 2012

New pitches for Plymouth and Pensilva

From the Plymouth Herald
WORK is to go ahead on a new permanent Gypsy and Traveller site on the edge of Efford in the Spring. Plymouth City Council has been awarded £600,000 to build 10 pitches on the permanent residential site at Military Road. Controversial Plymouth Traveller and Gypsy site gets go-ahead
From the Cornish Times
CONDITIONAL approval has been granted for the creation of new Travellers’ pitches on land at Pensilva.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Mount Hawke Travellers' site plan opposed

From the West Briton 24/01/13
PLANNERS have approved a controversial scheme for a new Traveller site in Mount Hawke. Single mother Helen Birkett was given planning permission for three pitches, composting toilets and a utility shed on her two-acre plot near Mount Hawke Skatepark. Cornwall Council's area planning committee also approved the continued use of two caravan sites in a neighbouring field for workers at Insite Managed Services. Miss Birkett's proposal attracted 15 letters of objection, including from St Agnes Parish Council, citing waste and flooding concerns and the change of use from agricultural to residential. Seventeen people, including local businesses and staff at Mount Hawke School, wrote in favour of the application. Councillor Joyce Duffin, for Mount Hawke and Portreath, said while she understood people's concerns, the Traveller site was "well located". The planning committee was told there was a "pressing need" for Traveller/Gypsy sites in Cornwall, and this scheme would help the council reach its target for 25 pitches in the former Carrick area by 2020. Mrs Duffin said: "I know some people find it very frustrating that there is a different set of rules for Gypsy/Traveller planning applications. "However, the local authority has to go by these policies, which are set by central government. "In the past when the council has refused planning applications, they have been won at appeal because Cornwall Council doesn't have any available sites. "It's better to approve the application, but with agreed conditions." The conditions restrict the number of people allowed on the site and ban commercial activities, including the storage of materials, without prior written approval. Mrs Duffin said: "I have a reasonable amount of experience regarding Gypsy/Traveller sites and policy, and I think these sites are well located. They're on the edge of the village, tucked away but within easy walking distance of the school and shops. "The residents have been there for around 12 months and are well integrated within the village. This isn't an unknown entity that we're talking about." Miss Birkett, who lives on the site with her son Rufus, 8, and two male friends who work and live in separate caravans, said: "I'm relieved. After months of uncertainty we can now settle, which is great for Rufus who's doing really well at Mount Hawke School." She has already planted trees at the entrance to the site and says she now wants to create an orchard and vegetable plot.

 From the West Briton
A PACKED parish council meeting has recommended refusal of an application to make a Travellers' site permanent, citing fears that it would attract more residents. It was standing room only at the St Agnes Parish Council planning committee meeting on Monday evening. The application to create three permanent pitches for existing Traveller families and for the erection of two compost toilets and a utility shed on farmland near Mount Hawke Youth Club was recommended for refusal by the parish council on the grounds that it would cause undue pressure on local infrastructure. Most of those who attended said they opposed Cornwall Council giving permission since doing so would attract more Travellers, as had happened at sites in other parts of the country. One of the objectors, Graham Hill, said he welcomed the parish council's recommendation but felt it had been unprepared for the dozens of people who turned out to question the planning committee and hear its members' deliberations. "My main concern was that the council room wasn't big enough and they hadn't thought about relocating for such a big issue," he said. "I understand that this has happened before, when the meeting was abandoned." The council will now forward its recommendation to Cornwall Council, which will make the final decision. The recommendation for refusal states that Cornwall Council should "strictly limit new Traveller site developments in open countryside that is away from existing settlements or outside areas allocated in the development plan." It also urges the unitary authority "to ensure that sites in rural areas reflect the scale of or do not dominate the nearest settlement community and avoid undue pressure on local infrastructure".
West Briton 06/12/12 -
A SINGLE mother seeking planning permission for three caravan pitches has promised the site will not be overrun with Travellers. Helen Birkett, who bought two acres of land at Mount Hawke more than 12 months ago, was responding to fears raised by St Agnes Parish Council and local residents. Councillors objected to the proposal for three permanent traveller pitches, two composting toilets and utility sheds on Skate Park Lane, and urged Cornwall Council planners to reject a separate application for the continued use of a caravan site at an adjacent field for two workers at Insite Managed Services. Councillor Ian Newby, for Mount Hawke – one of 50 people who attended a debate over the plans – said it was a "very emotive subject" that divided residents. "The issue is not with the people living on the sites but it is the change of use of a green field for Travellers. "People are fearful that there's nothing to stop more Travellers moving onto the site. There wasn't enough information in the planning application to make it clear what their exact intentions are. "It was also felt that the council shouldn't allow traveller sites in places where development isn't permissible. It's bound to stir local feeling." One objector wrote on Cornwall Council's planning website: "None of the neighbourhood have been made aware of this stealth encampment and if those on the land flout the law and regulations then what message does this signal if the applications are granted?" Miss Birkett, a self-employed cleaner, lives with son Rufus, 8, and two male friends who work and live in separate caravans. She told the West Briton: "I bought the site for continuity of schooling for my boy. Most people didn't even know we were here until we submitted the planning application. "People don't realise there are sites like this across Cornwall, mostly on farmland in isolated spots. They work because people respect the land and don't cause trouble. "I've travelled all over and I am used to being part of a small community. I was robbed a few months back; I wanted friends I could trust to join me for security and company, but I will not be allowing any more people to move on to the site." She said she planned to plant more than 100 trees, including an orchard and for fuel, and has the support Mount Hawke Academy, Rufus's school, and local businesses, including Diana's Flowers. In a letter to planners Penny O'Keefe from the school said Miss Birkett "worked extremely hard", volunteered in the school garden and was an "asset to the parish". The planning officer's report says the plan would meet the underprovision of Traveller sites in the former Kerrier district, was "very low-key, low-impact, [with a] low carbon footprint, sustainable and ecofriendly [and] will not impact on the wider community in terms of vehicular, environmental or antisocial issues".
West Briton 10/01/13 -
PLANNING applications for two neighbouring Traveller sites on land near Mount Hawke Skate Park are to be considered by councillors on Monday. Permission is being sought to continue using land as a caravan site and for the retention of two pitches, a utility shed and a composting toilet at Lowarnek. Members have been advised that approving the plans would help Cornwall Council meet its target of creating 25 traveller pitches in the former Carrick council area by 2020.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Plymouth City Council Transit Site Consultation

Plymouth City Council have begun a public consultation on a much needed proposed new transit site on Broadley Park Industrial Estate. Public consultation events start today (25/09) at Woolwell Community Centre from 2pm to 6.30pm and again on the 2nd October. An exhibition will also run for six weeks at the George Park and Ride between until the 12th October, as well as an opportunity to comment by completing an online survey. 06/10/12 - Plymouth City Council has announced it will be holding another Have Your Say meeting at Woolwell Community Centre 9th October 6 - 8pm Plymouth Herald article here

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Claim that Traveller was asked on to council land

From the West Briton
AN INVESTIGATION is being demanded into claims a Cornwall Council officer encouraged a Traveller to move onto council-owned land.

St Agnes Parish Council is writing to chief executive Kevin Lavery over the allegation against Gypsy liaison officer, Phil Eaton, that he also urged the man to occupy private land next to a flagship business park.

The Traveller arrived on land behind Wheal Kitty business park last week, where David Knowles, a convicted drug dealer has also been living. Knowles was sentenced to two years in jail in July 2010 for the possession of amphetamine and intent to supply while at Wheal Kitty. He recently returned to the illegal camp.

Businesses there have complained about loud music and feeling intimidated by the travellers.

Parish councillor Dawn Brown said the new arrival dumped a dilapidated bus metres from offices.

Within hours of arrival he was seen trying to gain access to Cornwall Council-owned land vacated by Denis Watkins, who lived in a caravan near the park for several years. Mr Watkins was moved to sheltered accommodation after serving a nine-month prison sentence for shooting a teenager in the leg with a .22 air rifle last year.

"We've now got two people illegally camped at Wheal Kitty. The Traveller has been abusive and threatened people," said Mrs Brown.

She further claimed Mr Eaton had invited the Traveller to enter the site.

"What concerns me is that a business owner at Wheal Kitty was told by the Traveller that he had been told by the Gypsy liaison officer to park by the buildings and that he would be transferred to the Cornwall Council-owned field.

"The officer was then overheard telling the Traveller to move onto the site."

Cornwall Council refuted the claim saying the land was not offered for use by the Gypsy liaison officer.

But on Monday night, Mrs Brown told parish council members she wanted a fuller explanation on how the Traveller came to Wheal Kitty and the officer's handling of the case, repeating the claims.

Members agreed to call on Mr Lavery to investigate the claim.

Police were called to the scene on Thursday when contractor Cormac arrived to install large granite boulders in the entrance to the council-owned field. Cornwall Council has also imposed an injunction on the field vacated by Watkins to prevent anyone from entering.

The council can do nothing about the private land, owned by and registered to a woman in Australia.

A businesswoman, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said she no longer invited clients to the park or visited the office alone at weekends. She said: "We have seen lots of cars and people arriving at night and weekends. They play rave music and there is human excrement everywhere."

She added: "We have been warned (by Cornwall Council) not to approach the Traveller without a police presence. When Denis was here we felt safe."

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Travellers' group pitch up again at Central Park in Plymouth

From the Plymouth Herald

TRAVELLERS have illegally pitched up at Central Park – for the second time within two months.

Five caravans as well as 4x4s and several cars gained access to green space near Goals off Outland Road on Friday.

Cllr Martin Leaves, who represents Peverell ward, has asked council officers to investigate whether gates to the area were left unsecure.

He said: "This is the third time within a couple of years that we have seen Travellers gaining access to the green space of Central Park. Almost every time the gates have been left open.

"It is the same problem this time – the barrier located at the top of Barn Park Lane was left open, allowing the Travellers to get on to Loves Field.

"It is not good enough; gates are put in place to keep Travellers off the park, which once again will leave a mess for the city tax payer to clean up."

A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said they had been made aware of the unauthorised encampment and were undertaking the required welfare checks.

She said: "We are following our normal procedures for dealing with unauthorised encampments."

The council deals with around 25 illegal encampments every year, partly because there are no organised transit sites in Plymouth.

Strict legal guidelines mean each unauthorised encampment can take between ten days and four weeks to evict.

The only permanent Gypsy and Traveller camp in the city is at The Ride, next to Chelson Meadow.

Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council was unavailable for comment last night.

Public consultation over planned Gypsy and Traveller site in Plymouth

From the Plymouth Herald

A PUBLIC consultation has been launched over a proposed Gypsy and Traveller site.

Fifteen transit pitches could be built on land owned by the council at Broadley Park, near Roborough, under the controversial plans.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, cabinet member for co-operatives and community development, said: "I know that this is a sensitive issue but we do need a proactive approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments. These are affecting more and more neighbourhoods and we can't ignore the problems they cause. Providing a transit site would mean we expect to see a reduction in the number of unauthorised encampments and subsequently we hope to ease community tension."

Residents and businesses are being asked for their views on the site designs and management arrangements.

Unauthorised encampments in Plymouth cost the council up to £300,000 a year in clean-up costs. Last year there were 40.

The six-week consultation will include two public events at Woolwell Community Centre, on September 25 and October 2, from 2pm to 6.30pm. There will also be an exhibition at the George Park and Ride between September 24 and October 12. Further events will be held for businesses and Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Travellers can stay on Newquay 'death trap' site

From the Cornish Guardian

A FAMILY of six Travellers has moved onto a "death trap" derelict hotel site in Newquay, the Cornish Guardian has learnt.

The group, which includes two adults and four under-18s, set up camp at the former Cedars Hotel at the junction between Mount Wise and St George's Road last week.

Police and social services visited the "rat-infested" site on Tuesday to check on the youngsters' welfare, but decided no action was necessary.

The resort's police chief, Inspector Ian Drummond-Smith, said the landowners were aware of the Travellers and had not requested eviction.

Cornwall Council's environmental health team has advised the family it is unsafe to live on the site. It is understood they had intended to move on but one of their children developed an abscess on her foot and needed medical treatment in the resort.

Mr Drummond-Smith said police would continue to monitor the site, adding: "We have limited powers to move Travellers from land. We have contacted the landowners and are happy they are aware of the situation. At this time we have not received any request to remove the Travellers."

The news has sparked fresh calls for the eyesore site to be better secured, or even demolished, after children were spotted playing on bikes within the perimeter fence.

John Coltman, owner of the nearby Trelinda Hotel and vice-chair of Newquay Town Residents' Association, said: "We've had enough. This has been going on since 2003 and the place is a death trap. Are they waiting for someone to get killed in there?

"I'm paying rates here on my hotel and just up the road we've got a site that's infested with flies and rats. It looks like something out of Slumdog Millionaire. This isn't Bombay, it's the main tourist town in Cornwall. This is negligence in a big way by Cornwall Council."

Kevin Brader, the council's senior environmental health officer, said two enforcement notices had been served on the owners, aimed at securing the site and removing rubbish. Contractors have been on site this week.

"The building is in a state of disrepair," he said. "We want it secured and we will ensure this is carried out. Any costs incurred will be recovered from the landowner."

A structural assessment was carried out on the hotel which found the building was not in danger of collapsing.

Mr Brader said: "If it was likely to fall down we could insist it was demolished but it is structurally stable so that isn't required."

An application was lodged in August last year to build 35 residential flats on the site. The site owners, believed to be Cornwall-based Rockmount Developments Ltd, could not be contacted.

Monday, 13 August 2012

St.Keverne and Coverack new sites

Despite the Councillors' fears that St.Keverne might become a 'hub' for Travellers, the New Travellers currently living in the quarry were unaware of the Coverack site and the proposed new pitches. Their arrival is coincidence.

From the West Briton

Parish council told of plans for official Travellers' site

MORE details have emerged of a potential official site for travellers in the Coverack area.

They came at Thursday's St Keverne Parish Council meeting when there was also concern voiced that the parish could become "a hub" for Travellers.

The remarks came after it was revealed that a group of Travellers has moved onto the Dean quarry site.

The parish has previously taken issue with the presence of a separate group of Travellers' at a car park in Coverack and fojavascript:void(0)r a time on one of the approaches to St Keverne.

Members were told of plans for six permanent pitches and two temporary ones if an official site is approved.

The meeting also heard that negotiations were taking place with Cornwall Council as part of an overall scheme for Travellers and affordable housing in the village.

But the exact location is not yet being divulged for fear of attracting more travellers to the area.

Earlier in the meeting, Councillor Anthony Richards said Travellers in vans and tents had moved into the former Dean quarry site.

He said: "Presumably they will be evicted in due course," but he also believed the council should make sure the landowners were aware of the situation.

"We should really push Cornwall Council into completing its Travellers' site within the parish."

Councillor Roger Combe questioned how the Travellers had got onto both the car park site a few years ago and now the Dean quarry location.

Councillor Dorothy Kemp said a lot of people living near the quarry site were concerned.

Councillor Bill Frisken also pointed out there had been gates at Dean quarry.

"It would appear Travellers generally have got wind of the fact there are going to be sites provided in this region," he said. "St Keverne is going to become a hub for travellers."

see also - Travellers move onto St Keverne quarry

Friday, 13 July 2012

Looe Transit Site Proposal

An Irish Traveller living in Looe has has put in a planning application to develop a ten pitch transit site on her land. Given the other proposed developments adjacent to this proposed site it is hard to see what objections can be made to this much needed facility.

Cornish Guardian coverage:

Travellers' plan draws objections

Site objectors stay away

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Travellers' Advice Team Newsletter Now Online

Travellers' Advice Team's Spring 2012 newsletter is now available online with legal updates and articles on "Gypsy status", responses to new Government policies and proposals, Dale Farm and legal updates. Get it here (pdf)

Travellers Advice Team have a new national telephone helpline for Gypsies & Travellers 0121 685 8677. Mondays to Fridays 9.00am - 5.00pm There's no operator service, so you get straight through to an expert.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Travellers' site for Halvasso?

It would appear that Cornwall Council has made a mistake and this proposal has not been re-submitted, both the original applicant and the landowner were unaware of that it had reappeared on the Council's planning website before the article was printed in the West Briton.

From the West Briton

PLANS for a two-pitch Travellers' site may be back on the table at Halvasso.

Pre-application discussions have taken place with Cornwall Council planners about a site at Potter's Farm.

A previous application was submitted early last year but subsequently withdrawn.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Luxulyan Parish Council loses as Gypsy site is agreed

From the Cornish Guardian

COUNCIL planning chiefs have granted permanent residence to a Gypsy site, despite objections.

Two mobile homes and two caravans can now be permanently sited on land at Carne Cross, near Trethurgy, following the decision by Cornwall Council's central sub area planning committee on Wednesday.

The site was granted temporary planning permission back in 2008 but the application for its permanent retention had angered Luxulyan Parish Council, within whose boundary it falls.

They argued that the site, in an "open countryside setting" was inappropriate and would set a precedent for further Gypsy sites nearby.

Councillor Jim Currie told the committee that he believed that Luxulyan Parish Council already had its "fair share" of Gypsy sites.

"I am concerned about the application, on behalf of Luxulyan Parish Council," he said.

"They have had more than their fair share. Has there been an equality impact assessment carried out? Where is the fairness?"

However, in a swift rebuttal, Councillor Steve Eva, vice-chairman of the council's planning committee, told Mr Currie: "If you want to talk about fairness talk to the people of St Dennis. They can have the Gypsy sites and Luxulyan can have the incinerator."

The discussion also angered Councillor John Fitter, who said: "Talking about quotas and people numbers; it's like were talking about some disease and I find that quite disturbing."

Luxulyan Parish Council also objected to the application on the grounds that it should not be approved while Cornwall Council is developing a strategy for future Gypsy sites.

Instead, the parish council was happy to support a further three-year extension of temporary permission.

However, Cornwall Council planning officers said the new strategy would not be able to identify many specific sites for Gypsies and Travellers and so other sites would be needed.

The committee, who were also told the Gyspy family currently living on the site was "well integrated into the local community", voted by 12 to 1 in favour of approving the application, on the condition that the site was tidied and suitable landscaping carried out.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Porrajmos - The Untold Story Of The Gypsy Holocaust - Falmouth Cinema

TravellerSpace, in partnership with Cornwall Council invite you to a special screening of the Porrajmos - the Untold Story of the Gypsy Holocaust at Falmouth Cinema, (moved from Redruth Cinema), 12th June 11.30 am. Places are limited, so book your place as soon as possible.

An estimated quarter to a third of all Europe’s Romanies were murdered by the Nazis and the occupied governments during the Second World War. Yet no Romaies were called to give evidence at the Nurermberg trials and very few of the Romany survivors received any compensation. The German government did not even acknowledge there was a racially motivated policy to exterminate Romanies until 1982 and the Berlin memorial to the Romany victims remains unfinished and left as a building site.

Determined not to let O Porrajmos (‘The Devouring’) be forgotten Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality have made a film following the journey of Romany women who go to Auschwitz to find out what happened to Gypsy/Roma people during the Second World War. The film also looks at the language of hatred used about Gypsies in Nazi Germany and draws parallels with the language used about Gypsies in Britain today.

Monday, 16 April 2012

New Planning Policy on Site Provision - summary from Marc Willers

Marc Willers of Garden Court Chambers has published a useful analysis and summary of the new Planning Policy on Site Provision for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople.

New Planning Policy on Site Provision for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Irish Travellers in Truro "could be there for some time"

From the West Briton

Inspector Mark Richards told councillors that Travellers on a Cornwall Council site on the edge of Truro could be there for some time. He broke the news during his presentation to Truro City Council at City Hall on Monday evening....The meeting also heard Travellers who had originally set up camp on Kenwyn playing fields and then moved to the Moresk car park had now relocated to Cornwall Council-owned land at Newham.

Mr Richards said: "There's a certain amount of leverage that Cornwall Council might put on them to move to an approved site. I suspect they're going to stay for a while because there's work."

Mr Richards said he was not aware of any complaints from residents about the latest Traveller site.

A spokesman for Cornwall Council said the Travellers had been issued with a direction under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 instructing them to leave the site.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Telegraph Hill News

From the BBC

Illegal Haldon Travellers site could be made permanent

Haldon Travellers site Consultations are taking place between the Travellers are the authorities

Between 30 and 50 Travellers, many of whom have children at local schools, have lived on the site in Haldon Forest, near Exeter, since 2002.

Teignbridge District Council will decide later whether to support a planning application from Teign Housing to create 15 permanent pitches.

Teign Housing has secured more than £1m from the government's Homes and Community Agency (HCA).

The HCA funding includes £125,581 which could be used for clearing the current site and the transfer of the land from Devon County Council to Teignbridge District Council.

'Other solutions'

A permanent site would have 15 hard-standing pitches and amenities such as electricity, water, showers and toilets.

Anyone living there would have to pay a fee, which would include a service charge to Teign Housing, and the pitches would also be subject to council tax.

Penny Dane, community development worker for Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council, said Teign Housing's proposal for a 15-pitch site was an "appropriate" size.

"The council feels that smaller sites generally work better than larger ones," she told BBC News.

"But if people want to stay and there are not enough pitches, we hope Teignbridge council will continue to look for other solutions."

Ms Dane said the Haldon Travellers, like any other diverse group, may have differing opinions over what those solutions could be, adding that it was important to remember that consultations between the travellers and the authorities were still ongoing.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

New Traveller Sites for the Lizard Peninsula

From the Falmouth Packet:

Two sites in the St Keverne parish have been earmarked as potential pitches on which travellers can set up home.

The location of both sites is currently being kept firmly under wraps by Cornwall Council, which is in secret talks with the travellers and the area’s councillors.

However Pam Lyne, Cornwall Councillor for St Keverne and Meneage, said during a meeting of St Keverne Parish Council that county officers had “two sites in mind.”

Speaking after the meeting she confirmed: “They want to ask St Keverne parish councillors which site they would prefer. As soon as they decide they prefer A to B then planning permission will be drawn up.”

Once the plans have been submitted the location of the intended site will be revealed.

It is liable to cause some controversy in the parish and the surrounding areas, with Gypsy and Traveller camps a sensitive issue.

It is understood that Coverack ward members have already met to discuss the possibilities.

Travellers have been living on the Cornwall Council-owned car park in Coverack for around five years.

In January two local residents complained to St Keverne Parish Council that they felt “victimised” after being fined for failing to pay for a parking ticket in the car park – when the Travellers had been staying there “for free” for years.

Jill Bosustow added to members: “Travellers say they’re being victimised but we are, because we’re the ones that pay our rates.”

Council chairman Russell Peters described her predicament as “appalling” and said Coverack was “just being forgotten.”

Back in January Cornwall Council announced that more than £1 million of funding had been set aside to help create 30 new pitches in Cornwall for Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers and New Travellers.

The plan was for a network of small sites to be developed across Cornwall, to meet existing needs and to address unauthorised encampments.

Mark Kaczmarek, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, said at the time: “Cornwall Council is committed to ensuring that members of the travelling communities have the same rights, including fair access to education for their children and health services, and responsibilities as every other person.

“We want to find small sites of between five to ten pitches, probably on council owned land, in consultation with local members and town and parish councils.

“Carrick Housing and the council will then take forward the most viable, which take into account how the sites could link into the existing infrastructure.

“New sites will be properly managed sites which will benefit Gypsies and Travellers and the local settled community alike.

“Gypsies and Travellers and the settled community can work together and we’ve all got something in common in wanting our children to be healthy and educated.”

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Marley Head Travellers Prepare For Forced Eviction

From the BBC:

Travellers illegally parked at a Devon site face a High Court action to forcibly remove them.

Dartmoor National Park, the planning authority for the site at Marley Head in South Brent, is applying for an injunction at the High Court in Bristol on 19 April.

The privately-owned land has been occupied since January 2007.

There were 29 unauthorised Traveller encampments - housing 203 adults and 70 children - in Devon in 2010/11.

A planning enforcement notice was served in June 2010 requiring the Marley Head occupiers to leave by 6 May 2011, but that was not complied with. There are currently about 30 people living there.

The park authority said members had considered "all potential options" before agreeing to apply for a High Court injunction "to secure a cessation of the breach of planning control".

It said it would be working closely with South Hams District Council, which has responsibility for housing Travellers, and Devon County Council which has responsibility for welfare of Travellers.

The Devon Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Service said in a report last year that the "high level" of unauthorised encampments in Devon "once again demonstrates the shortage of sites".

A spokesman for South Hams District Council said: "The council does not have any authorised grouped Gypsy and Traveller sites, apart from a limited number of pitches for individual families."

see also: National Park launches new action to close Travellers' site

Travellers should be left to live their lives - letter in the Western Morning News

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

New Telephone Advice Line For Gypsies and Travellers

Community Legal Advice have decided not to renew the Telephone Advice Line for Gypsies and Travellers which is run by Community Law Partnership. The Community Law Partnership were part of the original pilot project for advice lines in April 2002 and have had the longest running national telephone helpline. Community Legal Advice claim that their Housing Providers will be able to provide the necessary advice to Gypsies and Travellers, even though the Community Law Partnership have pointed out that the law relating to Gypsies and Travellers is of a very specialist nature (e.g. planning law as it relates to Gypsy/Traveller sites).

Remembering the famous phrase “don’t agonise, organise”, Community Law Partnership have set up their own Telephone Advice Line for Gypsies and Travellers. community Law Partnership provides advice, assistance and representation on ‘accommodation issues’ for Gypsies and Travellers e.g. evictions, issues on rented sites, homelessness cases, High Court planning appeals, planning injunctions etc.

The new helpline is available Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm throughout England and Wales on 0121 685 8677. There is an emergency service available outside of those hours.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

New site for evicted Irish Travellers - Truro

From the BBC:

SEVEN caravans have moved onto a Cornwall Council car park after a Gypsy family were forced off a site just 1km away.

The unauthorised encampment has been set up on the Moresk car park off Oak Way, Truro.

Last week a Gypsy family [Irish Travellers not Gypsies], who had set up camp on land at Truro Recreation Ground at Kenwyn, were served with a notice to quit.

The former rugby pitch was recently loaned by Truro City Council to host youth football matches, which had to be stopped when the family moved in.

Roger Gazzard, clerk at Truro City Council, confirmed the Kenwyn sports pitch had been cleared of vehicles.

He added: "They have left it very clean and tidy. There is no damage and the rubbish was left all bagged up.

"It means we can basically carry on with matches now."

Cornwall Council said it and Devon and Cornwall Police would monitor the "unauthorised encampment" on the car park and "endeavour to move them on as soon as possible".

Inspector Mark Richards, of Truro police, said: "We have monitored the situation at both sites and look out for any criminality or community tensions – we are not currently aware of any.

"We can only monitor the situation and take guidance from the landowner.

"They are not breaking the law."

He said the five vans and seven caravans on the car park were linked to the group who were camping in Kenwyn.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hopes for new Traveller sites - West Briton

From the West Briton

CORNWALL COUNCIL is monitoring a Travellers' camp near an engine house on the Great Flat Lode at Camborne.

The group, believed to be six people with five small caravans and a converted vehicle, arrived in June last year.

The council is currently considering the accommodation and welfare needs of the group.

"This group, along with all other unauthorised encampments on land owned by or responsible to Cornwall Council, is monitored as the council actively looks for land for authorised sites where basic amenities can be given, such as water and toilet facilities for which the occupiers will pay a rent," said a council spokesman.

It was announced last month that Carrick Housing, the arms-length management organisation which looks after the council's homes in the former Carrick district, has successfully bid for funding for the provision of new authorised Gypsy and Traveller sites.

Cornwall Council, along with every other local authority in the country, has a duty to provide suitable sites to meet the needs of its Gypsy and Traveller community.

Cornwall has a history of unauthorised encampments and a lack of regulated alternative sites to move people to. The council added: "This government funding has been made available to provide new sites to address the accommodation needs of our Gypsies and travellers.

"It is hoped that a network of small sites can be developed across Cornwall to meet existing needs and to address unauthorised encampments."

Daily Mail and St Merryn Locals Get It Wrong

From the Cornish Guardian:

RUMOURS that a man known as the King of the Gypsies had submitted a planning application to extend a St Merryn caravan site have been scotched after it emerged there had been a case of mistaken identity.

Concern was raised in the village after residents noticed that the name on the planning application to extend and improve facilities at Tregella Caravan Park tallied with that of the Romany Gypsy developer Noah Burton.

Mr Burton featured on BBC One's One Show and has been in the public eye for setting up an illegal camp in a village near Coventry.

However, both Mr Burton and his agent have strenuously denied any connection.

"I can in fact assure you that my client is a restaurateur from Leamington Spa," said David Bishton, the agent appointed by Mr Burton to oversee the application.

"We're only asking to increase the number of existing caravan sites from 30 to 36 and improve the facilities already in situ. We'd also like to carry out some landscaping to improve the look of the place.

"My client has no connection whatsoever to any illegal Gypsy sites."

Mr Burton, the applicant, who owns the Saint Bar and the Glass House Bar in Leamington Spa, said he was stunned to hear of the confusion.

"I've seen my namesake on TV," said Mr Burton.

"I've also had phone calls from the Daily Mail, who must have made the same mistake.

"I'm just looking to make the site at Tregella nicer so it'll be a pleasant place to come to for holidaymakers.

"I'm a restaurateur and I bought this site as a retirement project. I'd like to step away from the stress and strain of business, and running a caravan site in Cornwall is just so I can keep ticking over.

"I only want to increase the number of touring caravans that can stay by a small number. There's no question of there being any static caravans put here."

Mr Burton's planning application seeks permission to increase the number of touring caravan pitches from 30 to 36.

The application also includes proposals to replace the toilet block with a new toilet and laundry building, as well as the construction of an equipment store, extension of an access track and siting of a mobile home unit to house a warden and an office.

Nine pages of objections have been posted on Cornwall Council's online planning register since the application was submitted last September.

They cite fears that the proposals will increase traffic through the village and have a negative visual impact.

One resident who did not want to be named said the otters living in a nearby stream would be threatened if the development went ahead, but Mr Bishton denied this.

"The stream is some distance from the site and there would be no permanent impact on the area," he said.

"This is an existing site and I would have thought this would have been a very uncontentious issue. It really is a storm in a teacup."

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Planning officers look in favour of Gypsy caravan - St Blazey

From the Cornish Guardian:

PLANS for a Gypsy caravan to settle permanently on a designated wildlife site in St Blazey have been earmarked for approval by county planning chiefs.

The site at the Paddock, Carne Cross, near St Blazey – which will also include the building of a dayroom measuring six by six metres – will go before Cornwall Council's Central Sub-Area Planning Committee today.

Heard at County Hall, Truro, the planning application includes parking, room for turning and a play area and for the foul drainage to be discharged to a cesspool.

The site, at which its temporary planning permission granted in 2008 expired in August this year, is within an area believed to contain China clay, a council report said.

However, the plans have proved controversial, with Luxulyan Parish Council objecting on the grounds that a proportion of the land lies within a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.

In its submissions to Cornwall Council, parish council chiefs said it wanted the application referred to the planning committee where it will be making further comments tonight.

Comments from Environmental Protection included: "As this is now going to be a permanent residential dwelling a contamination assessment should be submitted at the application stage, as this is a proposed use that will be particularly vulnerable or sensitive to the presence of contamination."

The site lies about two miles to the south east of Penwithick, close to the Eden project. Adjoining the site to the north and east are highways, and to the west and south is open land. It measures about 310sq m in total.

Case officer Gemma Halstead said in her report to the committee that the plans should be approved.

"The development is justified in the context of policies for Gypsies and Travellers and would contribute to meeting the need for sites.

"The site is not located within any landscape or character designations and the encroachment into the countryside is limited.

"The development is reasonably well located in relation to services and facilities. The scheme is therefore considered to comply with the advice contained."

However, the plans would be subject to a list of conditions if approved.

These include that the site shall not be occupied by any persons other than Gypsies and Travellers and the residential use shall be restricted to the stationing of no more than two caravans at any time.

Gypsy family can live at park permanently - St Columb

From the Cornish Guardian:

A GYPSY family has been given permission to set up home permanently on land near St Columb, despite opposition from the town council.

Tina Watson has been living at Mandalay Park, near Roserrans Farm, on a temporary basis since 2002.

But now the family, which includes Mrs Watson's two sons, daughter and six grandchildren, can officially call the site their home.

The news means they will be able to plan for the children's future and fully integrate into the community, according to a Cornwall Council liaison officer.

It is also hoped that the clean-living family will help turn negative preconceptions about Gypsies and Travellers on their head.

Members of the council's central sub-area planning committee voted unanimously to allow the family to use the park as a permanent address at a meeting last Wednesday (January 4).

The decision was made in spite of concerns raised by St Columb Town Council that the move represented overdevelopment of a rural area.

The site includes three mobile homes, two touring caravans and a day room.


In a report to the committee, a Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer said: "Mrs Tina Watson and her extended family are deserving of the above permission that will give a future to the school-age children and allow the family to plan in terms of their welfare, health and employment prospects knowing that they have a permanent address.

"Mrs Watson and her family have shown through their cleanliness and orderliness that far from being a blot on the landscape, which some mainstream people see as stereotypical in Gypsy and Traveller lifestyle, they have created a very high standard at Mandalay Park which can only enhance the rural area in which they live and also convince the local, settled community [of] the family's willingness and commitment to integrate and assimilate."

In the same report, planning officer Gemma Halstead said: "The application is recommended for approval as it is considered that there is a pressing need for more Gypsy sites and planning permission in this case would allow the site to make a contribution to meeting the need.

"The site is relatively well screened from the adjoining highway and although the development could not be said to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the area, it is considered that the harm is limited and localised."

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor John Fitter said: "It's a well-kept site. It's not intrusive into the area and I've no problem saying I will support this."

Green light for Travellers' plans for development - St Stephen

From the Cornish Guardian:

A FAMILY of Travellers from St Stephen say they are "absolutely thrilled" after being granted planning permission to build permanent structures, despite parish council objection.

Councillors unanimously passed the application at a Central Sub-Area Planning Committee meeting at County Hall in Truro on Wednesday.

The application proposed the building of two dayrooms including the relocation of a mobile home and the re-use of a redundant septic tank on the Peneden Long Lane High Street site.

The applicants, husband and wife Roy and Kay Meaden, were present at the meeting.

Mr Meaden said to the committee: "It's for me and my family. It would provide us with better facilities, utility use, as well as a bathroom.

"My eldest daughter is at Brannel School at the moment and will be leaving this year. She wants to attend college. This will provide her with a place to study and it will also benefit my other children."

St Stephen-in-Brannel Parish Council were not present at the meeting due to a full parish council meeting on the same night, but had previously voiced their objections.

After the meeting, parish council chairman Kim Wonnacott said: "The original application was granted on the grounds that any structures put in that location could be removed.

"There's a policy against development in the countryside. If an application wants to build a house in a field it would be turned down under that policy.

"Our objection was purely on policy. Years ago there had been a structure put up in that location by a different owner – a barn for animals – but because there was no planning permission for it there was enforcement and it had to be removed.

"It's extremely difficult. The site is immaculate. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just that development should not take place on that site as it is a rural location, which was previously used as grazing land."

Mrs Meaden said after the meeting that they were delighted with the outcome.

"We are just over the moon. We can't believe it. We don't know when we are going to start construction but we're absolutely thrilled," she said.

"We just want the best for our kids – a better start in life than what we had. It hasn't sunk in yet."

The site previously only had planning permission for two static caravans which can only be occupied by Gypsies and Travellers.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Porrajmos: the Untold Story of the Gypsy Holocaust

The Nazis killed between a quarter and a third of all Gypsies living in Europe
No Gypsy people were called to give evidence at the Nuremburg Trials
Most Gypsy survivors have not been compensated for the atrocities against them
In 1982 Germany officially acknowledged that there had been a deliberate policy to eliminate Gypsies
There is still widespread persecution of Gypsies in Europe today

Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality Council launched their new film Porrajmos: the Untold Story of the Gypsy Holocaust on Thursday 26th January 2012 on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.

The film was made by PDREC's Gypsy/Traveller Community Worker with two Romany women, and the support of Devon's Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service and a young film maker.

The film follows the journey of one Romany woman who goes to Auschwitz to find out what happened to Gypsy/Roma people during the Second World War. The film also looks at the language of hatred used about Gypsies in Nazi Germany and draws attention to the language used about Gypsies in Britain today.

The film is 16 minutes long and is designed for use in Secondary Schools. It is relevant to many of the subjects taught in schools including RE, History, Citizenship, PHSE and English.

The film will be released in March 2012. If any schools would like to use this resource, please contact Penny Dane, Community Development Worker, Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality Council, 14 York Rd, Exeter EX4 6BA. Email: Tel: 07979 838138

Friday, 3 February 2012

Matches Needlessly Called off as Travellers Park by Truro Pitch

From This is Cornwall:

YOUTH football matches had to be cancelled on Sunday after a family of Travellers moved on to a recently revamped pitch.

Truro City Council has leased the former rugby pitch at Kenwyn from Cornwall Council and spent more than £2,000 replacing the rugby posts with Football Association standard goals and facilities for youth games.

But matches on Sunday had to be cancelled after a Roma family [in fact Irish Travellers not Roma] moved on to the site at the end of last week.

Truro mayor and Cornwall Council member for Kenwyn Rob Nolan said two vans initially arrived on Thursday evening.

He said: "Somehow the chain and lock on the gates at the entrance to the pitch had been broken, apparently before they arrived.

"They said they would only be there for a couple of days but more have arrived. The police think they might be there for a month or two.

"We have spent a couple of thousand pounds sorting out the land for youth football and now we have had to cancel one of the first matches.

"It's more than a nuisance. A lot of money has been invested up there for the community."

Truro council hoped the newly enhanced pitch would help meet growing demand for facilities in the city, as well as relieve the frequently water-logged Boscawen Park in wet weather.

Parks manager, Richard Budge, said the Travellers have not used the field and are parked on the hard-standing.

"They are blocking the access to the facilities up there," he said. "We felt it was inappropriate to put people in a position where they had to negotiate with them to use the facilities and thought it best in the situation to cancel the games."

Mr Nolan said Gypsy liaison co-ordinators at Cornwall Council had issued the Travellers with a behaviour plan.

Truro police's Inspector Mark Richards said: "We will no doubt be discussing a way forward over the coming days."

A statement from Cornwall Council said: "The council and the police will endeavour to move them on as soon as possible."

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gypsies and Travellers: camp sites and trespass - Commons Library Standard Note

New House of Commons summary of the law regarding unauthorised sites. The full report can be read here (pdf)

Gypsies and Travellers: camp sites and trespass - Commons Library Standard Note

• This note describes some law relating to Gypsies (Roma) and Travellers. It mainly covers issues relating to camp sites and trespass, including the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. The issues arising when Travellers buy land and undertake unauthorised development upon it are covered in another note – Gypsies and Travellers: unauthorised development.

• The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 introduced strict provisions to allow local authorities or the police to move on trespassers. Many councils have been reluctant to use the 1994 Act provisions, partly because Government guidance required full attention to be paid to the welfare needs of all the trespassers. It is probably not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights to evict trespassers who have nowhere to go.

• The Labour Government pressured councils to make adequate provision for Gypsies, partly through the Housing Act 2004 and partly through Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks.

• A letter to councils from Secretary of State Eric Pickles of 27 May 2010 states that “decisions on housing supply (including the provision of travellers sites) will rest with Local Planning Authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.”

• The May 2010 spending cuts for the Homes and Communities Agency have ended the Gypsy and Traveller Programme grants for new sites, thus saving £30m in 2010/11.

• On 29 August 2010 DCLG announced stronger tenancy rights on authorised sites; new incentives to build authorised sites; the abolition of Whitehall guidance; stronger powers to tackle unauthorised development.

• On 13 April 2011 the Government published a consultation on a new circular relating to planning for Gypsy sites.

• In January 2012, the Government announced funding for camp sites.

Media Student's Film About New Cornwall Sites

Falmouth journalism student Patrick Clahane has made a short film about Cornwall's proposed new sites.

Gypsies from Patrick Clahane on Vimeo.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Travellers row in village - Coverack

The Travellers in Coverack have been working with the council for some years now to try and find a more suitable site. The claim that they do not contribute to the local community in any way is simply untrue and offensive.

From the Falmouth Packet.

Travellers living “for free” on a Coverack car park while locals get charged has been described as “appalling.”

Jill Bosustow visited St Keverne Parish Council last Thursday, saying she felt local people were being “victimised.”

She and her husband had parked in the Cornwall Council-owned car park ahead of a funeral and, running late, had not bought a ticket. On their return they found a parking fine. She accepted this outcome but questioned how it was fair when travellers in the car park were not fined.

Mrs Bosustow attempted to appeal the fine, writing to Cornwall Council to say: “Why should I be issued with a parking fine when other vehicles in the same car park, with people living in there, who have been there for a long time, have not been issued one?”

The appeal failed, with the council replying: “The fact that other vehicles may have been parked in contravention with the restrictions would not grant you exemption.”

Mrs Bosustow said she felt victimised, adding: “Travellers say they’re being victimised but we are, because we’re the ones that pay our rates. It’s well known they go to the toilets down there and take the water from there for free. What do they contribute to the community?”

She wanted to know if anyone else had been fined at the car park, describing it as “a sore subject.”

Council chairman Russell Peters said she had raised “a very serious point,” saying: “This council has fought ever since they have been on this car park. The authority |has taken no notice of our |communication.

“Quite frankly I think it’s appalling. You consider these people have been here four or five years – they have contributed nothing.”

He added Coverack was “just being forgotten.”

Councillor Bill Frisken said he could remember a local car being taken from the car park and crushed, but the Travellers were not even fined.

He added that mobile toilets were delivered on a regular basis by Cornwall Council, for the benefit of the Travellers, and said: “Presumably we pay that on our rates.”

Councillor Anthony Richards said: “Perhaps we should make it a New Year’s resolution that we finally resolve the problem of Travellers in the car park.”

Mr Peters asked clerk Grace Hatton to write a “very strong letter” to Cornwall Council in support of Mrs Bosustow and highlight the “injustice” over the way she had been treated.

Cornwall Councillor Pam Lyne said later she understood the Travellers were paying some money and the reason they had not been moved was the council had nowhere to relocate them to.

However, there was now “two sites in mind,” with two landowners prepared to have their land used. A planning application was now pending.

see also Car parking fines being waived for Travellers, say locals

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill House of Lords Committee Stage

If brought into force the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will have disastrous effects on the provision of advice and representation to Gypsies and Travellers on accommodation issues. The bill denies Gypsies and Travellers access to the legal advice and assistance which is available to any other group.

Successive central and local governments have failed to ensure adequate site provision, so that some 25% of the Gypsy and Traveller population who live in caravans are on unauthorized encampments and unauthorized developments, through no fault of their own. The Community Law Partnership, on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers, have requested that the House of Commons urge the Government to ensure that Legal Aid in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is available for Gypsies and Travellers to defend evictions from unauthorized encampments and to be advised and represented in County Court and High Court planning matters.

The bill has come up against strong opposition in the House of Lords. Yesterday Lord Avebury and Baroness Whitaker moved amendments concerning Gypsies and Travellers. The full debate can be watched here with Gypsy and Traveller discussion starting around 3.15 pm, or read the transcript below, followed by the Community Law Partnership's commentary. A summary can be found on the BBC here.

Lord Avebury: I am most grateful to my noble friend. I was saying that it would have a catastrophic effect on the provision of advice and representation to Gypsies and Travellers on issues relating to their accommodation. I am sure that I do not need to remind your Lordships that in the most recent survey by the DCLG in England, almost one in five of the caravan-dwelling population of Travellers was homeless, and that in terms of health, education, life expectancy, employment and access to public services they are the most deprived ethnic minority in our country. The tragic events at Dale Farm in Hertfordshire brought the plight of residents there to the attention of the whole country as their eviction was played out on TV day after day, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer, and to the council tax payers of Basildon, of £18 million.

Ministers say that Travellers must obey planning laws like everyone else; but they demolished the system created by the previous Government under which an obligation was imposed on local authorities to provide planning permission for Travellers’ sites that would accommodate the number of Travellers in each area, as determined by an independent assessment of needs, buttressed by public inquiries. Since the Secretary of State gave local authorities carte blanche to rip up those plans and decide in their unaided wisdom whether to allocate any land at all in their development plans to Travellers’ sites, the number of sites for which it was intended that planning permission should be granted has plummeted by half, according to research conducted by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain.

At the same time, because of the unsympathetic attitude to Travellers who want to provide their own accommodation caused by the scrapping of circular 1/2006, Travellers who want to provide their own accommodation now have greater difficulty than ever identifying plots of land on which they would have the remotest chance of getting planning permission. They invariably find that there is an immediate hullabaloo from settled residents in the neighbourhood, whatever the planning merits of the site, because Gypsies and Travellers are the only communities against whom open racist prejudice can still be voiced without challenge.

This is the context in which Travellers are to be deprived of legal aid in cases that involve eviction from unauthorised sites and from rented sites; other issues concerning rented sites; High Court and county court planning cases such as injunctions, planning appeals or stop notices; and, finally, homelessness cases.

In paragraph 28 of Schedule 1, loss of home is kept within the scope of legal aid, and “home” includes a caravan that is the individual's only or main residence. However, the words left out by the first four amendments in this group, and by Amendment 87, would address the exclusion of a caravan that is occupied by a trespasser. This would mean, for example, that a Traveller who trespasses on a local authority site, having been moved on from the roadside to a vacant pitch, would be unable to contest an order for possession and would thus be at immediate risk of losing their home. In such a case recently, solicitors managed to fend off an order and the case is going to trial.

A great deal of media attention has been given recently to local authority housing that has been left unoccupied for months, or even years in some cases. If the same is happening on local authority Traveller sites, where the shortage is even more desperate, it is surely desirable that the courts should be able to look into the matter. There is a difference between caravan dwellers and housing trespassers because there are houses in which a homeless person can be accommodated, but there are no sites on which a person dispossessed from a caravan site can find alternative accommodation. There are just no alternative sites available.

At the July 2011 count of Traveller sites, there were 4,000 caravans on unauthorised sites in England, of which just over 2,000 were on land not owned by the occupiers and therefore vulnerable to possession orders. When these provisions come into force, almost certainly there will be some landowners who seize the opportunity of kicking the Travellers off, in many cases without even having to turn up in court, and if they do, coming up against an unaided defendant. Since there is nowhere that they can lawfully take their caravans, the evicted Travellers will end up on a different unauthorised site to await yet another eviction. This churning of people living on unauthorised sites will have further harmful repercussions for the lives of the families concerned and, primarily, for the health and education of their children.

That will be the effect of removing access to legal aid from people forced to live on unauthorised sites because of the failure of successive Governments over the 50 years of my political lifetime to ensure that Gypsy and Traveller caravan dwellers have places to live. Do your Lordships want to deprive these communities of the right to defend themselves against the threat of repeated eviction? I certainly hope not.

Turning to Amendment 77, it is ironic that after the success of the campaign over many years to extend the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to local authority sites, the Government have proposed that all the provisions of that Act, other than the ones concerning possession actions, should be taken out of scope. The Community Law Partnership, to which I pay tribute for the excellent work that it does on behalf of Travellers and for its help in drafting and briefing on these amendments, has lodged an application for judicial review on behalf of a Traveller challenging the failure of the equality impact assessment to address the impact of this proposal on Gypsies and Travellers. For many of them who live on rented sites, there will be no legal advice on breaches of covenant, quiet enjoyment, succession, re-siting of the mobile home, rent increases or repairs. Few of them will have the ability to deal with such cases on their own because of the widespread educational disadvantage that affects these communities and the consequent low levels of literacy and numeracy that they suffer. All we are asking for is for initial advice, since cases other than possession under the Mobile Homes Act in England are dealt with in a residential property tribunal, where legal aid is not normally available anyway.

Finally, Amendment 79 restores the right to legal aid in the large number of planning cases that appear not to be covered by paragraph 28(1)( because of the use of the term “eviction”. This could make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain that for the purpose of claiming legal aid, the loss of home resulting from the dismissal of a challenge under Sections 288 or 289 of the Town and Country Planning Act or the granting of an injunction under Section 187B of that Act may be considered equivalent to an eviction because in any of those cases the occupier forfeits his home in the end, even if there is a delay before he actually has to leave the site. The Community Law Partnership asked the Ministry of Justice for clarification of this point, and in its reply the department stated that, “legal aid will remain available to defend an application for an injunction to evict a person from a site under Section 187B of the Town and Country Planning Act or for a planning appeal that might result in the individual being legally required to leave their home”.

That appears to cover the whole of Amendment 79, but it needs to be spelled out in the Bill.

Annexe B of the Government’s response to the consultation on reform of legal aid contains a list of the key issues raised. One of these was that:
“Funding should be provided for planning appeals and eviction cases involving Gypsies and Travellers because this group was one of the most vulnerable in society”.

Immediately following these key issues, in paragraphs 75 to 82, the Government deal with the other issues raised but totally ignore the needs of the Travellers — the usual experience of these communities and the agencies that try to help them. In this case, however, it is not only the Travellers themselves who will suffer if these amendments are not accepted; the greater levels of harassment and evictions of Travellers on unauthorised sites that will inevitably follow the withdrawal of legal aid in planning cases, coupled with the abandonment of a strategy for securing that an adequate number of planning permissions are awarded to meet the needs identified by the Government themselves in their twice-yearly count, means that there will be more unauthorised sites than ever, with the attendant health, education and social problems.

Making life more difficult for Gypsies and Travellers is not the way to turn them into good citizens who generate fewer burdens on public services. I beg to move.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has set out very clearly and powerfully the way this group of amendments would work. I will briefly give noble Lords a couple of examples to flesh out what they mean in real cases.

For instance, there are two Gypsies on different plots, both facing injunctions to make them leave their own land because they have not yet obtained planning permission — notoriously low down on most local authorities’ to-do lists. With legal aid, lawyers managed to hold off the injunctions on the basis that there were reasonable prospects of success in their planning appeals. One of them has now obtained permanent planning permission and the other has obtained temporary permission for three years—of importance when there are school-age children in the family. The point is that these two would have been homeless without legally aided assistance, but these cases would not qualify for legal aid.

I should just add that the other Minister’s amendments to the previous group of housing clauses, offered in the witching hour last Wednesday, are welcome, but they are not nearly bewitching enough. They do not materially alter the unfair situation that Gypsies and Travellers will find themselves in if the Bill becomes law.

I also cite the case of a family on a private caravan site, protected by the Mobile Homes Act 1983—unless this Bill becomes law — but facing harassment by their landlord. The harassment was clearly intended to force them to leave the site. Their legal aid lawyer obtained an injunction to stop the harassment. One of the victims said, “Without a solicitor acting for us, they would have got us out by now”—again, they would have been homeless. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, Gypsies and Travellers are often illiterate and harassment can be very complex in legal terms.

Gypsies and Travellers are often illiterate because that is what happens when you are moved on all the time as a child. Is it any wonder that our Gypsy and Traveller children have the lowest attainment rates in school, are more likely to die in infancy and have mothers who are more likely to die in childbirth? These are the consequences of constant eviction and moving on. The reason for even more moving on will still be the lack of legal sites, but added to an overwhelmingly unmet need — if the Bill becomes law—for legal advice and assistance in establishing such entitlement as exists.

Of course, the costs of unnecessary evictions are huge, but the most important disbenefit, if some form of these amendments is not accepted, will be to the ordinary human rights accepted for all other citizens not to be made homeless. As it stands, this Bill discriminates against a defined minority-ethnic group—whatever previous government letters to me have said—and I hope the noble and learned Lord can provide a more positive attitude.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I, too, support Amendment 79, to which my name is added, and I declare my interest as a landowner. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and my noble friend Lord Avebury, for drawing my attention to these amendments.

All children need a degree of stability in their lives if they are to do well. Instability for Traveller children arising from repeated displacements—the “churning” to which my noble friend referred—impacts particularly adversely on their educational outcomes. Displacement risks undermining the education of Traveller children, excluding them from society and contributing to a cycle of generational failure. I would encourage the Minister to accept this amendment as a means of improving educational outcomes for Traveller children and of promoting their inclusion in society.

I should like to pray in aid two documents; namely, My Dream Site, which includes research with Traveller children and is published by the Children’s Society, and a 2003 Ofsted report, Provision and Support for Traveller Pupils. The Ofsted report states:

“The average attendance rate for Traveller pupils is around 75%. This figure is well below the national average and is the worst attendance profile of any minority ethnic group … The 1996 Ofsted report The education of Travelling children estimated that at least 10,000 Traveller pupils of secondary age were not registered at school. This survey indicates no decrease in these numbers and estimates that the figure could now be closer to 12,000. Despite examples of success by some services, the picture at the secondary phase remains a matter of very serious concern. Not enough Traveller pupils attend or stay on at secondary school … The vast majority of Traveller pupils linger on the periphery of the education system. The situation has persisted for too long and the alarm bells rung in earlier reports have yet to be heeded”.

That 2003 report highlights our failure to educate secondary-school-age Traveller children in particular.

The Children’s Society report indicates the connection between stability and school success for Traveller children. It states:
“More than any other amenity school raised a range of emotions.
‘It’s good for your education but it’s hard to get in because you’re travellers and that, so you get a lot of hassle at school.’ Johnny aged 12 years.

Other children’s experiences at school were similar, as they had also experienced bullying because of their Traveller status.

‘The only reason a lot of people do it is because they don’t understand. I tell the teachers but they don’t do anything.’ Daisy aged 12 years.

There was a marked difference in attitude towards school from the children who had been settled on a site for a stable period of time. These children had an opportunity to settle into a school routine and knew what was expected from them in a school setting. The opportunity to build up a relationship with staff and with other children seemed to make attending school a far easier experience. They appeared to have less of a problem with being bullied because of living a nomadic lifestyle. Some of the children no longer identified themselves as travellers but saw themselves more as settlers. These children had been able to attend one school and had lived in one place for most of their lives”.

To conclude, all children need a degree of stability. The education of Traveller children is likely to be significantly impaired by continued upheavals, which can lead to their exclusion from society and failure for successive generations of Traveller children. I support this amendment because it may contribute to improved stability for Traveller children and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, the treatment of Gypsies and Travellers by states and other public agencies in the West over the last 100 years and longer has been in large measure a major disgrace. The worst instances have certainly not occurred in this country, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, put it to us, there remains a remarkable degree of prejudice against Gypsies and Travellers still, unfortunately, extensively licensed by public opinion.

I was struck, in the two constituencies I had the privilege to represent in the House of Commons, by how very difficult it was, in the face of public opinion, for local planning authorities to construct a policy framework in their areas which would ensure that Gypsies and Travellers had places where they were entitled to live. While I would not argue for especially favourable treatment for Gypsies and Travellers any more than I would for any other group, it is particularly incumbent on us, as we scrutinise all legislation, to be sure that it does not involve anything that may be discriminatory against them. So I simply ask the Minister and his colleagues to look carefully and sympathetically at the amendments in this group, which have been moved and spoken to so well by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I, too, want to add my voice briefly in support of the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Perhaps it would have been surprising if anyone other than the noble Lord had moved these amendments. I was at school when the noble Lord, as Eric Lubbock, Member for Orpington in the House of Commons, moved his Gypsies and caravan sites legislation in, I think, 1967. Many of us admired the courageous way in which he has continued over the following years to raise the plight of Travellers and Gypsies in the discrimination and racism that other noble Lords have referred to in the debate.

As a young city councillor in the 1970s, I served in Liverpool on the committee which was charged with the duty of creating a caravan sites Act. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, who is in his place, will recall the controversy that that aroused at the time. But we fulfilled our statutory duties and took on the prejudice that inevitably was raised. The not-in-my-back-yard syndrome is one with which we are all familiar. Indeed, it has to be said that the presence of Travellers or Gypsies in a community can raise a number of issues, not the least of which are questions of educational provision. In the 1970s, that provision was made, and I agree with what my noble friend Lord Listowel said about the importance of providing stability of education for the children of Travellers as they progress through life.

A few months ago we saw what happens when there is an unregulated approach to these matters. At Dale Farm there was a terrible culmination in violence that involved the use of Tasers. We saw the police having to be pitted against members of the Traveller community as they were evicted from their homes. That is not a sight that most of us want to see repeated on a regular basis. But I fear that unless amendments of this sort are incorporated, and if we deny people access to justice, which was the point made by the noble Lord in his speech, all these other things will follow. They will be the corollary. If we do not provide opportunities for resolution on planning disputes and access to amenities, as well as on questions of discrimination and the others that have been raised during this brief debate, we will see more incidents like Dale Farm. For that reason, I hope that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply, he will tell us just how many unauthorised sites there are in the country, what is the estimated shortfall of places — that will give us a barometer of how many disputes will have to be resolved in the years to come—and the cost to the public purse through legal aid of cases which have been brought before the courts over the past decade? Without knowing what the sums of money involved are, surely it would be irresponsible of us to dismiss lightly the amendments to maintain the status quo which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has put before us today.

I end by returning to his point about the importance of ensuring that people have access to justice. That runs all the way through the proceedings of this Bill in your Lordships’ House, and it will continue to be the question. You cannot get justice on the cheap, and groups like these should not be left on the margins, unable to access the courts.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I support the case that has been made so well by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker. It is well known that the Gypsy and Traveller communities are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in England and Wales in terms of health, education and discrimination.

It is almost universally accepted that these disadvantages and problems would be addressed if there was adequate site provision. Of course, that does not really happen, because it looks to me as though local authorities fail to follow government guidance on encampments, to take into account human rights considerations and to follow a proper and reasonable process in relation to sites for Travellers.

If Gypsies and Travellers get involved in county court and High Court planning cases without the assistance of legal aid, they will eventually end up homeless. That is surely to be avoided and a distinct worsening of the situation. It is something that we should not be prepared to countenance. I therefore hope that the Government will give due consideration to the excellent case which has been made by my noble friends with a view to accepting it. These people deserve our support and consideration.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I find myself in total agreement with everything that has been said so far by all noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment. The arguments have been put fully, lucidly and with great force, and certainly do not need to me to underline them. However, I would say two things. Many years ago, I felt that there was an equitable balance between the interests of Travellers and those of the community at large, a balance which had been brought about by the legislation for which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, fought so valiantly over the years. It was necessary under that legislation for local authorities to provide certain basic facilities for Travellers. That balance was maintained by a flagship judgement by the late Mr Justice Peter Pain, a most humane and pioneering judge, who said to a county council in Wales: “You are seeking injunction to remove these Travellers from a lay-by whose freehold is vested in your good selves. On the other hand, you have, I think in a cavalier way, done nothing at all to implement the obligations which were placed upon you to provide for Travellers. An injunction is an equitable remedy. I exercise my judicial discretion not to grant it until I am convinced that you, too, will carry out your statutory obligation”.

Unfortunately, the law has now been changed and that balance no longer remains, which makes this group of amendments all the more relevant.

The other thing that I would say, as one who exercised a family jurisdiction for some years, is how obvious it was to me that insecurity ate like acid into the lives of children of Traveller families, particularly in the context of education.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I support the amendments. I was a member of the National Equality Panel, and one of the most shocking of our findings was the degree of educational disadvantage among Gypsy and Traveller communities. Reading the very helpful briefing that we have had from Community Law Partnership reminded me of the importance of this. A number of noble Lords have made the point about educational disadvantage and children’s need for education and security. Of course, access to justice is that much more important for a community which suffers high levels of illiteracy and educational disadvantage. As Community Law Partnership points out, we are talking about some very complex areas of law. I therefore hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on the amendments, which would protect one of the most vulnerable minority-ethnic groups in this country.

Lord Pannick: When the Minister comes to reply, will he clarify how these provisions will operate? Notwithstanding the provisions that are being debated today, is it the case that Gypsies and Travellers will remain entitled to seek legal aid to challenge acts or omissions of public authorities under paragraph 17 of the judicial review, and remain entitled to challenge under paragraph 20, which relates to convention rights, in the same way as other litigants? Is it the case that the provisions we are debating will not prevent Gypsies and Travellers claiming legal aid if they have proper grounds for contending that they are not trespassers? I would be grateful if the Minister would clarify those matters, because they have a considerable bearing on the fairness of the provisions that are under challenge through these amendments.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the Committee owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker for bringing forward these amendments for debate in Committee today.

Most of the cuts to social welfare legal aid appear at best naive and at worst socially and economically disastrous. However, the cuts with which these amendments deal—subject, of course, to the answers to the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has just asked the Minister—unfortunately, appear maliciously, deliberately and uniquely to target a group which, as the Committee has heard, is one of the most marginalised in our country. It is ironic — more than ironic, it is distressing — that in a society where popular and governmental discrimination against groups of people is, thankfully, becoming rarer and rarer, the tolerance and acceptance which we think is the mark of a civilised society does not seem to apply to this group of people.

Gypsy and Traveller communities do not come in for an easy time, whether it is from the press, which seems to delight in portraying them as villains or an irredeemably alien culture, or from politicians, who have not done enough to help these communities preserve their way of life and certainly have not done enough to ensure sufficiency in the provision of housing.

Every victory for this community — as, for example, the acceptance in April last year that local authority sites should be subject to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 — has been very hard won. Legal aid has played a significant part in these victories and in establishing these rights and ensuring that they are rightfully and lawfully exerted.

Although the Government have claimed that the exemptions they have put in place are to deal with squatters—a subject to which we shall no doubt return in Part 3 — everyone knows that at least a quarter of the Gypsy and Traveller population who live in caravans do not live on authorised sites. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to that in opening his amendment. Many believe that this population, due to an acute crisis in the availability of sites, has little option but to trespass.

If the Government’s intention is specifically to disfranchise a protected group which is already, as I have argued, much maligned, I suspect that it will end up causing much more trouble than it is worth, and that Gypsy and Traveller communities will continue to express their culture.

The Bill fails to give these communities a basic ability to stand up to oppressive behaviour by public authorities—and we have seen that kind of behaviour, I am afraid and, frankly, it is unacceptable to mortgage the future of these communities for the purposes of the Bill. Legal aid has played an important part in gaining whatever benefits these communities have, and it would be a tragedy if they were taken away.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Lords, we have had an important debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, it is no surprise that the amendment was moved by my noble friend Lord Avebury, whose record over the best part of half a century in standing up for the rights of Gypsies and Travelling people is well recorded. As I understand it, he continues to be the secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsy Roma Travellers. I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is vice-chairman of that group. We have heard important views on wider issues, not exclusively on legal aid. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, raised the important educational issues relating to Gypsies and Travelling people.

I will focus on the amendments and the impact on legal aid. Amendments 73, 74, 75 and 76 go together as a package. They would ensure that legal aid remains available in relation to possession and eviction matters for persons who are clearly trespassers on the property or land where they reside. As has been pointed out, the Bill currently excludes such persons from receiving legal aid under paragraph 28.

While we are generally retaining legal aid where a person is at immediate risk of losing their home, the Government do not consider it appropriate for the taxpayer to provide funding for individuals to try to resist removal where they unarguably entered and have remained on the property or site as a trespasser. On a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, paragraph 28 states:
“if there are no grounds on which it can be argued … that the individual is occupying the vehicle or structure otherwise than as a trespasser, and … that the individual’s occupation of the vehicle or structure began otherwise than as a trespasser”.

I hope the noble Lord will be reassured that Gypsies and Travellers will have access to legal aid under paragraph 28 in relation to loss of home if there are any grounds to argue that they are not trespassers. That is certainly the intention. It is quite clear that that is what will be delivered.

I emphasise again that legal aid will remain available for eviction and possession cases where there are any grounds to argue that the client has not entered and remained as a trespasser. On the other point, we are also retaining legal aid for most judicial review cases as set in out the Bill, and also—as the noble Lord asked—with regard to breach of convention rights by public authorities. I can confirm that Gypsies and Travellers will continue to have access to legal aid in terms of that particular paragraph of the schedule, along with others.

My noble friend also referred in his amendment to the Mobile Homes Act cases. Amendment 77 seeks to bring into scope legally aided advice for all matters arising from the Mobile Homes Act 1983. That Act gives rights to residents who have agreements with site owners to live in their own mobile homes on site. As I have explained, we have generally retained legal aid where the individual is at immediate risk of homelessness. This includes possession and eviction from a mobile home site. However, the consequence of the amendment would be to extend legal aid to cover all matters under the Mobile Homes Act 1983. It would make legal aid available for what we regard as lower priority matters where legal aid is not in our view justified, for example disputes about the sale or inheritance of mobile homes.

The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, was on the more important issue of harassment. I hope I can reassure her that legal aid is available for harassment injunctions under Sections 3 or 3A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and, by extension, under paragraph 32 of Part 1 of the schedule.

Baroness Whitaker: I am grateful to the Minister for that point, but perhaps I may refer back to his remarks about judicial review, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I am still not exactly clear what happens when it is not quite an eviction but a matter that would lead to an eviction. For instance, would judicial review be available to defend a county court possession action or a failure by a local authority to follow or have regard to relevant government guidance? It is those cases that lead to eviction but are not exactly eviction actions—and indeed the Gypsy is a trespasser on the prima facie case but, after judicial review, might be found not to be a trespasser.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I will double-check on that. I would in no way wish to mislead, but on judicial review paragraph 17 indicates that,
“civil legal services are to be provided in respect of an enactment, decision, act or omission”.

It is certainly my understanding that that is the case, but I shall conclude my speech and double-check that. That paragraph of Schedule 1 will apply and entitle Gypsies and Travellers in the same way as it entitles others. I am as certain as I can be that that is the case, but the noble Baroness gave some very specific examples. Perhaps the best thing for me to do would be to set out in writing to her, and circulate it to those who have taken part in our debate, precisely the position in regard to the very specific cases that she raised in her intervention. I hope that she will accept that. There is certainly a general power or provision to bring within scope judicial review cases, and I believe that that addresses the point, but I want to be absolutely certain with regard to the specific issues that she raised. Obviously, other Members of the Committee who have contributed to the debate will be copied into that letter.

Amendment 79 relates to this and brings in issues of planning. I hope that I can reassure the Committee, and my noble friend in particular, that it is unnecessary. Planning matters that concern eviction from home will remain in scope under paragraph 28 of Part 1 of Schedule 1. Accordingly, legal aid will, for example, remain available to defend an application for an injunction to evict a person from a site under Section 187B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or for a planning appeal under Sections 288 and 289 that might result in the individual being legally required to leave their home, including the land where the home is located.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and my noble friend in moving his amendment raised the Dale Farm-type situations. To look at the legal issue that arises in relation to the amendment, we are retaining legal aid for eviction cases, including eviction from a mobile home or a caravan site. Legal aid will remain available for eviction from an unauthorised development, subject to the means and merits tests, as apply in other cases. It is important to distinguish those cases from situations where people have set up unauthorised encampments. So there is a difference between an unauthorised development and an unauthorised encampment on a site that they neither own nor have permission to enter. In these circumstances, they would be outwith the scope, as I have indicated; but if the issue is one of an unauthorised development on property that they own and have a legitimate right to be there, legal aid would be available.

Amendments 87 and 88 refer to “trespass to land” in Part 2 of Schedule 1. Amendment 88 concerns cases where the client is trespassing on land, including land surrounding a building, but is not trespassing in the building itself. I recall in a debate that we had last week under an amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew that we sought to reiterate that the reference in this part of Schedule 1, specifically to “trespass to land”, is not intended to generally exclude matters falling within Part 1 of Schedule 1 that involve trespass to land but to generally prevent funding for the tort of trespass to land. I indicated during last week’s Committee debate that we are giving active consideration to the exclusions in Part 2 of Schedule 1 generally to ensure that the drafting fully delivers on that particular intention. Clearly, we will look at the particular issue raised in regard to the specifics of trespass to land in this context when looking at whether the Bill as drafted delivers what is intended.

Part 2 of Schedule 1 generally excludes funding for tort claims, because they are primarily concerned with money and alternative funding arrangements can be made available through conditional fee agreements. However, tort claims for trespass to land are not excluded under the Bill where they concern allegations of the abuse of position or power or a significant breach of human rights by a public authority.

The debate has ranged more widely, and I am sure that if the House has not debated the wider issues in recent times, they merit a debate sooner rather than later. The Government understand the issues here and consulted on their new draft planning policy for Traveller sites over last summer. The Department for Communities and Local Government is considering all the consultation responses and intends to publish the new policy as soon as possible.

Let me just put on the record that the Government are taking measures to ensure fair and effective provision of authorised sites for Travellers more generally, which seemed to be one of the issues being raised, including providing £60 million in England over the current spending period to help local authorities and other registered providers to build new Traveller sites in consultation with local communities. Councils will also be given incentives to deliver new housing, including Traveller sites, through the new homes bonus scheme.

For the reasons given, and with some of the reassurances that I have given on the scope being not quite as narrow as has perhaps been thought, I hope that my noble friend will agree to withdraw his amendment. As I have indicated, I will certainly respond.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Before the noble and learned Lord completes his remarks, I asked him a couple of specific questions. I realise that he may not have the answers to them now, but they would help us to keep this issue in context, especially when we get to Report. He has just given some information about the amount of money that the Government are going to spend, and that is welcome. However, could he in due course tell us more about the numbers of unauthorised sites and how many such cases using legal aid there have been—perhaps over the past decade, and certainly in the course of the past year—and what that has cost the public purse?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I apologise to the noble Lord for omitting to address that. When writing I cannot be certain either that the information is available in the form that he wishes or how easy it might be to extract what the specific nature of some of those cases were, but to the extent that we are able to provide the relevant information I will certainly do so at the same time as I respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, first, I must express deep gratitude to all those noble Lords who spoke in favour of this amendment: the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Lords, Lord Howarth and Lord Alton, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and, finally, the noble Lord, Lord Bach. There was not a single contrary voice in the whole debate and your Lordships have demonstrated the concern which arises from these amendments and from the situation of Gypsies and Travellers in general.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, there are in fact 2,000 caravans on unauthorised sites, which are therefore legally homeless at the moment. As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said, the problem is that they have no option but to trespass.

The answer that my noble and learned friend the Minister gave to the first of these amendments, the ones which deal with legal aid for persons liable to eviction, was not satisfactory because that was the whole point of the amendments. It is all very well to say that they will have access to legal aid under paragraph 28 if they are not trespassers, but all of those 2,000 caravans, except those which are on sites owned by the Gypsies and Travellers themselves, are in fact trespassers and have no

When people are thrown off a site such as Dale Farm — there is another one at the moment in Meriden, where the local authority is similarly kicking people off a site that they own and have developed themselves—they will have no alternative but to camp on the roadside or to try to sandwich themselves into an authorised site where there happens to be a little space left on one of the pitches, only to find that the local authority there takes steps to secure their removal immediately.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his remarks on the challenges to an injunction under Section 187B or an order under Sections 288 and 289, but I asked him whether it was not preferable to have these spelt out in the Bill, and I hope that between now and the next stage the Government might consider the wording necessary to do so. I believe that it would be possible to quote my noble and learned friend’s remarks in a court of law if there were any doubt about the matter, but it is always best to have things spelt out in statute if you can.

The debate has raised issues that go far wider. In concluding his remarks, my noble and learned friend spoke about the £60 million that was allocated by the Department for Communities and Local Government for the construction of new sites.

Unfortunately, very little progress seems likely to be made on that front; in none of the cases where grants have been made has there been either an application for planning permission or steps to identify the land.

I rang around some of the local authorities and housing associations that had received money under that heading. They all told me that they were at an extremely preliminary stage and that when they get around to identifying particular pieces of land, they will come across the problem that so many of your Lordships have spelt out today: there will be immediate opposition from local residents that will make it very difficult for them to proceed. In spite of the fact that this money is available, your Lordships should not imagine that it will lead to any immediate progress on the provision of those sites—nor, if by some miracle they were completed overnight, would they solve the problem. Speaking from memory, I think there are 600-odd pitches in the allocations but altogether there are 2,000 caravans on unauthorised sites, so they would cope with only 30 per cent of the need that exists.

In these circumstances, it is vital that Gypsies and Travellers have access to legal aid for all the purposes dealt with in this amendment. I hope that before we get to the next stage my noble and learned friend and others in the Government will consider what we have said today and think about restoring the right to legal aid, particularly in the amendments that are dealt with early on in this group. As far as we have got, though, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend, and I am sure that we will have further advice from the Community Law Partnership when we come to the next stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Comment from the Community Law Partnership:

Many congratulations from all members of the NML Campaign to Lord Avebury and Baroness Whitaker and the other peers who spoke in support of the amendments. It was a truly inspiring debate (until Lord Wallace stood up!).

What about what Lord Wallace said?

Planning cases:

There has been a significant shift in the Government’s position.

To remind readers, Lord Wallace stated:

Planning matters that concern eviction from home will remain in scope under paragraph 28 of Part 1 of Schedule 1. Accordingly, legal aid will, for example, remain available to defend an application for an injunction to evict a person from a site under Section 187B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or for a planning appeal under Sections 288 and 289 that might result in the individual being legally required to leave their home, including the land where the home is located.

As Lord Avebury said it would be best if this position was made clear in the Bill itself.

Unauthorised encampment eviction cases:

Analysing Lord Wallace’s response here, the Government are stating that judicial review of an eviction action would be in scope but defence of a county court possession action (subject to him getting back to Baroness Whitaker on this point) would be outside scope. As far as the motivation for this can be worked out it seems to be that these Gypsies and Travellers are naughty trespassers even though several peers pointed out that they have no alternative if there are insufficient sites – are they mean to vanish into thin air? Or more likely are they meant to abandon their way of life in desperation by going into housing.

It is instructive to look at a practical example. Let us take local authority A who are seeking to evict B from their land because B is there without authority. B is very ill and says that A has not carried out any welfare enquiries in breach of the relevant government guidance. Additionally B has an ongoing homeless application to A by which B seeks a pitch. If A takes action under section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, B will have a potential judicial review challenge which will be within scope for legal aid. If A takes county court possession action, B’s response (according to House of Lords authority) would be to defend that action in the county court. However such action, according to Lord Wallace, will be out of scope for legal aid. So even though the same defence or challenge would be put forward in both cases, the local authority’s choice of procedure would decide whether B could obtain legal aid or not.

We think that deserves a very large exclamation mark
That’s more like it!

Mobile Homes Act (MHA) 1983 cases:

The Government are clearly determined to exclude non-possession MHA cases from scope so the battle will go on here. However we will be mulling over what was said about harassment cases. What immediately occurs on this point is that, if Protection from Harassment Act 1997 cases are in scope, why not also breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment cases under the MHA (and in this context it is noted that, after representations at the consultation stage, unlawful eviction from housing cases were brought back into scope)?

Keep up the lobbying. Now is a good time to get back to your MP as the Bill passes through the Lords.

Also more lobbying coming up in advance of the Report Stage in the Lords.

Let us know if any queries and keep up the good work!

We are happy for folks to use and quote any or all of this and put it up on websites etc

Community Law Partnership
24th January 2012