Information about gypsies and travellers

Who are gypsies and travellers?

For the purposes of Planning Policy, persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such.

Do gypsies and travellers pay Council Tax?

Yes, they do on authorised sites.

Why do gypsies and travellers set up on sites without planning permission?

The lack of public sites and the difficulties gypsies and travellers have in setting up their own sites has often left them without the ability to access their basic rights to accommodation.

What is a transit site?

A site that is authorised for short-term stays by gypsies and travellers. The site is usually permanent but are used short term and have basic amenities and services. There is a limit on the length of time residents can stay. They are only meant to be for short-term stop-overs.

Why is the provision of more gypsy and traveller sites an issue?

It is a government requirement for councils to make provision for all people requiring housing. This include meeting the needs of gypsies and travellers and Travelling Showpeople. This requirement is set out in various pieces of legislation including: the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equalities Act 2010 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Government advice says that councils must ensure that through their plan-making process, sites are identified for gypsies and travellers to meet any requirements. As part of the plan preparation process, an assessment of gypsy and travellers accommodation needs was prepared in 2020. The Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment 2020 (PDF) indicated that the borough has a need for 23 permanent pitches and 6 transit pitches over the plan period.  As the borough does not currently have any sites, we are obliged to find sites for 23 permanent pitches and 6 transit pitches during the life of the Local Plan.

The provision is different in the London Plan – it’s a lower level of need. Why can’t we just go with that figure?

The London Plan requires boroughs plan to meet the identified need for permanent gypsy and traveller pitches. It also requires that boroughs undertake an audit of existing local authority provided pitches and sites and plan to address any issues identified by the audit.

Boroughs are also required by the Housing Act 2004 to assess the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers in their area when developing housing policy and produce a strategy on how these needs can be met.

To address these requirements the Council undertook an independent audit, the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment, published in 2020, which identified a need greater than that set out in the London Plan (GLA Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Topic Paper 2017).

Why are gypsy and traveller sites needed in the borough?

At present there are no gypsy and traveller sites located in the borough, however in planning for gypsy and traveller sites to meet the boroughs identified need for permanent and transit pitches this should reduce the incidence of unauthorised encampments.

Are gypsies and travellers sites exempt from Green Belt policy?

No, government policy does allow for exceptions to be made to Green Belt policy where there are very special circumstances that outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. The lack of suitable alternative sites to meet an identified need can be put forward as part of a case of very special circumstances but these are rarely successful.

How do I keep in touch on the progress of the Local Plan

If you have any questions about the Local Plan, problems accessing the documents or would like updates, email or call 020 8379 3866.

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