Funding for Gypsy and Traveller sites in London

Communities Minister Iain Wright today announced successful bids for funding from the Gypsy and Traveller Site Grant to help councils improve living conditions on authorised Gypsy and Traveller sites, and provide new pitches to reduce unauthorised camping.

In London Gypsy and Traveller Site Grant totalling £1.3 million has been approved to provide a new site, extend two sites, and support the refurbishment of five sites.

This announcement follows a second round of bidding for the Grant in 2007/8. Across England, since 2006/7, the Government has approved £54.6 million of investment that will provide over 400 additional pitches for Gypsies and Travellers, and refurbish 120 sites.

Schemes have been evaluated by both independent consultants and the Greater London Authority.

One can but wonder whether this new site is in an equally well chosen location as the one that is shown in the picture by this author. The photo shows the Earlsfield Gypsy Site, which is a council owned site, near Wimbledon, in London.

A further £97 million of funding is available between 2008 -11, and bids are now being invited.

Iain Wright said: "This funding is vital in delivering both new and better sites to ensure that Gypsies and Travellers have authorised, decent places to live and to help reduce the £18 million annual enforcement bill.

"It is important that councils ensure there are enough authorised sites for the Gypsy and Traveller communities. A good supply of legal sites can break the vicious cycle of evictions that is costly in terms of both local tensions and taxpayers' cash.

"We are providing a further £97 million of funding for councils and housing associations over the next three years to help meet the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers.

"I am pleased that the report of the independent Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement has endorsed our approach to these important issues."

A good idea would be to test out the minister by getting a few Gypsy owned and run housing associations off the ground applying to get land for own sites. We should very soon find that the government is NOT interested in housing assassinations, other than those that are former local council, to run sites. Why not, someone asks? The answer is simple: private sites would not be provided by the local authorities and they have to fulfill a quota under the new legislation to provide x-amount of pitches. That is also the very reason that it is so hard to get planning for small Gypsy-owned sites.

As usual, obviously, the minister is full of himself and the measures by his party's government. Nice talk is all that has so far been provided. Maybe we could get some action and for starters it would be nice if the Gypsy People themselves would have a say as to where the sites go and also would have the right to set up their own sites, with or without financial grants from the government. Our People know where they want to live, and that is NOT next to sewerage works, cement works, tarmac works, under flyovers of motorways, nor on old landfill sites. What is wrong with a Gypsy family buying an on residential caravan park and turning it into a private Gypsy site? It is not a “change of use” because, in my book at least, and in the book of most people, I am sure, a caravan park is a caravan park is a caravan park, regardless who lives there.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008