Why do Gypsies and Travellers sometimes set up sites without permission?
The lack of public sites and the great barriers they encounter in trying to set up their own have left many Gypsies and Travellers without the basic right to accommodation. If they camp on other people’s land, private owners, local authorities and the police have a range of different powers to move them on.
In order just to have somewhere to live, some Gypsies and Travellers therefore purchase their own land and apply for retrospective planning permission. This process is used regularly by members of the settled community, who may indeed attract sympathy if they have to demolish a building constructed without permission. The planning application still has to go through the due process. It accords with the policy of successive governments who have expected Gypsies and Travellers to provide their own accommodation.
The conflicts that can be generated are in nobody’s long-term interest. Sometimes public meetings are held and hostile and discriminatory statements are made about Gypsies and Travellers. There are deeply held suspicions within the Gypsy Traveller community that planning applications can be opposed for reasons other than planning criteria, reasons related to people’s preconceptions about Gypsies and Travellers and their prejudicial attitudes towards them. What is needed is to establish more public sites, to make the planning process more equitable, and to welcome Gypsies and Travellers as part of the community.
Image: Dale Farm gate via @TVRav