Localism Bill in the U.K will spell bad news for travellers
The Government’s Localism Bill constitutes a number of significant changes to local governments, which includes modification of social housing policies.
Councils would no longer have to meet set figures for housing provision, inclusive of those previously assigned for traveller sites.
The aim of the Bill is to provide local authorities with more power to govern in accordance with the needs of their community.
However, this would be detrimental towards travellers.
Sally Woodbury of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups has said that targets ‘made councils aware that they had to do something’ when it came to housing for travellers. With this absence of expectation from the government though, it is likely that we will see a reduced effort in the drive to provide traveller sites. This is a key priority, considering that nearly one in five travellers live on unauthorised sites.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that many citizens in the U.K do not wish to see traveller sites established in the areas where they live. For example, recently in the Basingstoke and Deane district of Hampshire, 58 out of 65 consulted neighbours objected to an appeal by two travellers to challenge the council’s rejection of their proposal for a permanent site.
The Coalition Government initially removed all regional housing targets in July 2010. The High Court later ruled such a decision unlawful but even so, this has already resulted in around 182,000 plans for homes being scrapped. To take the South West as an illustration of the situation, there were plans to establish 1,600 pitches for travellers by 2011 but it has been reported that as of yet, only about 50 have been built.
The Bill is currently being debated in Parliament. If enacted, it will go against helping travellers who have nowhere to go and instead, lead to an increase in illegal settlements. In turn, this will only serve to further heighten already existing negativity towards the travelling community.
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