London, 14. 9. 2005, 12:34 (GTLRC)
Joseph Jones will be speaking at the Local Government Association (LGA) conference on Gypsies and Travellers on the 15th of September in London. The minister Yvette Cooper MP will also be speaking. Joseph will state: "We are aware that the LGA is calling for stronger enforcement powers against Gypsies and Travellers living on land without planning permission but existing ones, which include fines of up to £20,000 and even imprisonment are severe enough. Councils will jump to take up any such new powers but not lift a finger to make more sites".
" More sites is the ultimate solution and councils need to be under a statutory duty telling them to provide and facilitate sites. The last Conservative Government scrapped the duty on councils to provide sites, at a time when there was already a shortfall, andexacerbated the national shortage of sites, the problem was compounded by Labour's failure to return the duty. Many Gypsies and Travellers were forced to provide for themselves and hollow promises were even made in a planning circular that councils would help them but they didn't. Figures show that almost 90% of applications from Gypsies and Travellers were refused, as against less than 20% from others. For that reason some desperate homeless families have had to move onto their land and then put in a planning application. Now politicians like David Davies MP for Monmouth and Michael Howard have the cheek to call such Travellers law breakers. Will these same Conservatives castigate Conservative councils like Brentwood which are wilfully defying new obligations the Government have set out on Gypsy and Traveller accommodation? Just who is breaking planning law?"
"The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition calls upon the LGA and Government to establish a moratorium on forced eviction until the shortage of sites has been addressed at a local level. Families living on unauthorised developments are victims of policy failure not criminals who should be herded off their land by bulldozers and bailiffs. We would hope that Gypsies and Travellers like those at Dale Farm could be granted planning permission. Failing that alternative land should be offered. In 21st century Britain forced eviction should not even be considered. This is Mugabe politics right here in Britain today. If the sites are created then the need for and cost of enforcement is cut away and more Gypsies and Travellers can get the chance to become part of a community and to make the contribution they want to make and are capable of making. Don't fight with us but work with us to find a solution. This w! as the approach that David Atkinson the Conservative MP who promoted the Traveller Law Reform Bill in parliament took, in truth he did more for us than many other politicians and his example of promoting not just more site provision but dialogue and mutual understanding is one all the political parties need to follow and learn from".
Joseph Jones is a committee member of the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition and founder member of International Gypsy and Traveller Affairs.
The conference will be at Local Government House, Conference Centre, Smith Square, London SW1.
Andrew Ryder, The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition