The government has said that travellers and gypsies will have to prove they travel permanently before they can set up a camp at a council-run site.
The Daily Mail reports that settled camps will no longer be provided for travellers and gypsies unless applicants can prove they “travel permanently” – such as for a few months every year.
Currently, local authorities have a legal duty under the Housing Act 2004 to provide travellers and gypsies with sites for settled camps.
If families are unable to prove they travel permanently, they will face the same procedure for applying for settled campsites as those making planning applications to build homes.
Gypsy caravans have increased by one-third since 2006 and there are now more than 20,000. The government says the new rules will protect Green Belt land from “inappropriate development” – and will also ease tensions between travellers and gypsies and settled communities, over travellers’ use of common ground and Green Belt land to pitch their caravans.
Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that around 10% of gypsy and traveller camps are unauthorised encampments.
A spokesman for the department said that there are no “firm guidelines” about what constitutes a “nomadic lifestyle” – and it would be down to local planning officers to determine if a family travelled permanently, based on factors such as whether traveller and gypsy children attended local schools.
Draft planning rules released on Monday (31/08/15) state:
“For planning purposes, the government believes a traveller should be someone who travels.
“Travellers who have given up travelling permanently should be treated in the same way as the settled community, especially regarding sites in sensitive locations, such as in the Green Belt.”
The most famous illicit traveller camp was Dale Farm in Essex, where 400 people were living in caravans that were pitched illegally on 51 caravan plots. Travellers at the camp were evicted in September 2011, having fought a court battle to prevent eviction.
Dale Farm was set up on Green Belt land in Essex and Basildon Council won a Court Order to restore the land back to being Green Belt land.
Campaigners in support of the traveller families at Dale Farm called on Basildon Council to provide 62 plots to temporarily house travellers made homeless, while planning permission was sought for other settled camps.
Basildon Council received 56 homelessness applications during the eviction process at Dale Farm.
Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors
Duncan Lewis housing solicitors can advise on housing matters under the Housing Act, including advising on gypsy and traveller housing issues, such as homelessness, eviction and civil liberties issues.
There are Duncan Lewis offices nationwide – and Duncan Lewis is a leading provider of Legal Aid services.
Where Legal Aid is not available, Duncan Lewis offers competitively priced fixed fees wherever possible.
For expert legal advice on housing law, call Duncan Lewis housing solicitors on 020 7923 4020.