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Government introduces “discriminatory” planning policy for Traveller sites

Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

A report from the Traveller Movement has highlighted the harmful, troublesome and at times discriminatory effects of a new planning policy introduced in late August.

The policy does not acknowledge that a Gypsy or Traveller who stops travelling permanently, even for the reasons of education, health or old age, is eligible to apply for planning permission for a Traveller site. This shows a clear misunderstanding by the government of the issues that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities face in terms of access to education and health care provisions, as well as a misunderstanding of the traditions and lifestyle of members of this community.

In addition, the policy will designate planning applications for traveller sites on green belt sites as “an inappropriate development”. This is despite the statistical evidence proving that there is a chronic shortage of traveller sites across the country, and evidence from the CPRE that over 200,000 homes are planned on the green belt.

Also in the new planning policy, local planning authorities will be not fully required to meet the needs of a Traveller site if they have been “burdened” by a large-scale unauthorised site. This means that, as Travellers now must travel frequently to be eligible for a Traveller site planning application, they are less likely to have their needs addressed by the planning authorities due to increased necessity of unauthorised camping by this policy.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission response to this policy is that it “would be inconsistent with the Government’s obligations under both domestic and international law” and that “the best interests of the child” were not properly considered.  In addition, the policy shows continuity with High Court ruling that the government was “discriminating against Gypsies and Travellers by using [ ] ministerial powers to personally decide whether they should be allowed to settle on green belt land.”

The Government must address the concerns of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities over their right to settle, and their rights as a group of people that are frequently and systematically discriminated against.

Miriam Steiner, Intern