Localism, populism and the fight against sites

Localism, populism and the fight against sites


Written by: Ryan Erfani-Ghettani

Action groups and ‘residents’ associations have, in recent months, been using all kinds of legal technicalities to stop Gypsy and Traveller settlements, in some cases with the express backing of local authorities.

Using the Localism Act, local ‘residents’ groups[1] are emerging to fight, usually successfully, against Traveller and Gypsy attempts to establish legal sites – and all this despite the fact that local authorities have failed to provide the necessary statutory pitches.

Around 80 per cent of the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers live on authorised sites. The remaining 20 per cent on unauthorised sites either live on land they own but without the correct planning permission, or on land they do not own. Of the additional 5,821 pitches estimated as required between 2006 and 2011/12, under a third were in fact built.[2]

There is now a new impetus and residents groups are being formed to fight sites through local planning processes. Such fights are taking place against sites proposed by local authorities or by families, where there are, as yet, no Gypsies or Travellers on site. And fights are also against Gypsy or Traveller families who are applying for planning permission to change the use of land that they own to make it suitable for residence.[3] There are also, of course, fights against families simply living on land that they do not own.

Why this surge in numbers of anti-Gypsy and Traveller site groups now? There has long been opposition to site provision, but the Localism Act has compounded the problem. Claiming to ‘return decisions on Traveller site provision to local authorities who are best placed to know the needs of their communities’,[4] the Act removes all means for them to do so. Under Labour, regional strategies, based on intense consultation, determined the specific duty of each local authority to provide for Gypsies and Travellers, which at least gave some measure of the degree to which local authorities were committed to serving Gypsy and Traveller needs. By removing the regional strategy framework, the Traveller Solidarity Network has warned that the coalition is responsible for significantly reducing the number of bids for sites and funding.[5] Academics Joanna Richardson and Andrew Ryder have raised concerns about a structure that suggests people should be empowered to help themselves, but then ‘take[s] away the planning and financial framework to help deliver this.’[6] This is predicted to grow worse. According to the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, needs assessments, the new evidence base for site provision, are being haphazardly rushed through for a March 2013 deadline.

Under the previous government, where local authorities failed to meet Gypsy and Traveller housing needs, there was still the possibility of intervention from central government.[7] Now, targets for provision have been scrapped, and the ultimate decision over contested planning cases has been delivered unchecked to local politicians, vulnerable to manipulation by popular lobby groups. The failure of local authorities to meet the needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities now receives no higher rebuke. In 2011, representatives of Gypsy and Traveller organisations expressed fears that this new decentralised system, which eliminated ‘bureaucratic’ accountability measures, would leave service provision ‘at the mercy of the vagaries of local politics’.[8] The prevalence of local action groups, and the gains they have made, suggests that such fears are well founded.

One result of ‘localism’ is that, with no fear of reproach from central government, councillors and ‘residents’ have an unprecedented freedom of action. Sometimes this freedom sees council officers and councillors attempting to do right by their local Gypsy and Traveller populations, but placed under enormous strain by residents’ campaigns. But in other cases, councillors are now able to make quick political capital from anti-Gypsy and Traveller sentiment. A government that has failed to enforce a duty on its local authorities to look after its Gypsy and Traveller populations has allowed popular residents’ campaigns to become a more successful means of rejecting potential sites.

Meriden RAID national conference for anti-site campaigners, January 2011

Anti-site action groups

The following are examples of recently formed anti-Gypsy/Traveller site action groups (often, but not always, working with the support of local authorities), with the express aim of securing the eviction of families or the rejection of site proposals, challenging them on planning and development grounds:

  • Meriden, Solihull: Meriden Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID), whose spokesman David McGrath is an ex-Tory councillor, set up a 24-hour vigil camp protest. Its efforts have seen Gypsy families served with eviction notices from land that they owned. Meriden RAID has attempted to organise a national coalition of anti-Gypsy and Traveller site campaigns, and in January 2011 it laid on a national conference to establish connections between residents fighting Gypsy/Traveller sites throughout the UK.[9] Its website states: ‘If you are defending your area against inappropriate development – including housing developments – email us and we will see if we can help. We have access to a range of experts.’[10]
  • Hockley Heath, Solihull: In July/August 2011, Solihull Council announced plans for possible sites for Gypsies and Travellers in the area, one of the proposals being for a pitch on School Road, Hockley. Hockley Heath Community Residents Against Inappropriate Development (HHC-RAID) was set up in November 2011 and the group applied to the parish council for a grant of £6,500. In February, the Hockley Heath Residents’ Association newsletter showed that this grant had been awarded and that the money was to be used to pay David McGrath of Meriden RAID for a report. However, in July 2012, it was revealed in Private Eye that this offer of funds was later retracted after an equalities lawyer pointed out that such a grant would be in contravention of the Equalities Act 2010.[11] 
  • Beaumont Leys, Leicester: The LE4 Action Group has campaigned against Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby’s plans to establish three sites in the northwest of the city. They have successfully gathered 2,700 signatures (although only 713 were from residents of the city), ensuring that the council must debate the locations of the sites, potentially taking the process back to the drawing board. A decision was due in October 2012.[12]

    Anti-site meeting in Coppenhall, Crewe. From left, Councillor Peggy Martin, Councillor Derek Bebbington, Edward Timpson MP, CATS chairman Glen Perris and John Jones
  • Crewe, Cheshire: After Cheshire East Council announced that it planned to build two plots, residents set up Crewe Campaign Against Traveller Sites (CATS) in October 2011. Within a week it had raised £2,000 with the intention of hiring a solicitor who had fought legal battles against similar proposals in south England.[13] Members managed to raise a 5,400-strong petition, with an accompanying letter, which CATS chairman Glen Perris, along with Edward Timpson MP, Councillor Derek Bebbington and ex-Councillor John Jones presented to David Cameron.[14] The letter took pains to state that CATS was not a racist group, but that it opposed the site because of its ‘improper use of tax-payers’ money, the existing housing deficit and the failure to follow a transparent, fair and proper process’.[15] At a fundraiser in aid of legal action, at which Timpson was present, the group received ‘substantial pledges’. In the face of this pressure, Cheshire East councillors withdrew the application in April 2012. Lib Dem Councillor Derek Hough lamented that ‘it’s not difficult to work up a depth of feeling against this community … we are letting them down’.[16]
  • Pickmere, Cheshire: In May 2012, the Dolan family appealed to Cheshire East Council against the rejection of an earlier application to make their temporary Spinks Lane site a permanent one. In response, Pickmere Parish Council and Pickmere Area Residents Group (PARG) contacted residents in Wilmslow (see below) seeking support,[17] and circulated a letter locally in which they ‘urgently appeal to you all (again) to express your comments regarding this inappropriate and unnecessary development’, stating that it ‘is most helpful when making any comments to restrict your feedback to the planning issues’.[18] The letter directed residents on the most ‘highly relevant’ issues, which would ‘provide powerful evidence to the Planning Committee’. The Dolans’ appeal was rejected in August 2012.[19]
  • Attleborough, Norfolk: Breckland Council’s proposals to find fifteen new Gypsy and Traveller pitches prompted the formation of residents’ action group Question Local Attleborough Traveller Sites (QLATS). Hundreds attended QLAT’s first meeting, during which a letter of support and advice from Crewe CATS (see above) was discussed. The local mayor arranged a public meeting in October 2012 to discuss the plans.[20]
  • Newent, Gloucestershire: In 2009, Travellers moved onto land that they owned on Southend Lane, Newent. Although they were denied permission to use the land as a housing site, they were given temporary permission to stay until 31 January 2012, by which point the council should have provided an alternative site. This didn’t happen. As January approached, Newent Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) began to apply pressure to have the Travellers evicted.[21] Mayor of Newent and Tory Councillor Len Lawton drew comparisons between Southend Lane and Dale Farm, and he assured residents that he would remove the Travellers. As the deadline approached, the Southend Lane Travellers submitted a new planning application, infuriating spokesman for Newent RAID, Tory MP for Forest of Dean, Mark Harper, and Councillor Lawton, who saw the application as a ‘delaying tactic’.[22] The district council assured residents that it would make use of changes to planning policies since 2010 to ensure the Travellers were removed. By mid-February, residents had sent almost forty objection letters to the council,[23] and on 20 February 2012, council officers served the Travellers enforcement notices, giving them six months to leave. By April, the council indicated that it would use updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (to refuse to recognise retrospective planning applications) so as to make it more difficult for Travellers to appeal decisions.[24]

    Stanton Wick Action Group
  • Stanton Wick, Somerset: On 14 September 2012, the Stanton Wick Action Group (SWAG) successfully pushed Bath and North East Somerset Council to drop plans for Gypsy and Traveller sites in Stanton Wick, Radstock and Keynsham.[25] SWAG was represented in a group of claimants, including members of other local action groups Bath Old Road Action Group (BORAG) and Keynsham Action Group (KAG), that threatened the council with a costly judicial review, challenging the way in which potential sites had been selected.[26] Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Ball of the Homes and Planning Department removed the proposed sites in the area from a long-list of potential sites. The claimants’ solicitor, Matthew Knight of Knights Solicitors, is described as a specialist in Gypsy and Traveller related issues. His website offers advice to anti-Gypsy and Traveller site campaigners: ‘Successful opposition to proposed sites or halting the development of an unlawful site is achievable but affected residents need to think strategically to influence the local planning authority. It is vital to fully understand the planning process, work closely with the planning authority and to campaign effectively and persuasively.’[27]

    Stanley Action
  • Stanley, Wakefield: Proposals for a ten-pitch site in Castle Gate, Stanley, were submitted to Wakefield Council in January 2012. In response, hundreds of objections were written to the council, and a new residents’ group, Stanley Action, was formed.[28] Stanley Action reportedly sent out thousands of letters, outlining their objections and mobilising against the site. One of its founder members, Wendy Gibb, told the Wakefield Express that ‘the most important thing is to make everyone aware of this and how they can object’. By October 2012, after gaining support from the local Carlton Village Residents’ Association, the plans had attracted over 1,200 objections.[29]
  • Penderry, Swansea: In September 2012, over 400 residents attended a meeting called by ward councillors in order to oppose the creation of any new sites in the area, following Swansea Council’s decision to establish a second permanent site in Llansamlet.[30] The site was one of five potential sites, along with one in Milford Way in Penlan, where residents set up the Leo’s Community Action Group (LCAG). After holding a rally in May 2012, LCAG later presented a petition to the Swansea Civic Centre with over 1,000 signatures in October 2012. The council is still searching for a second permanent site.[31]
  • Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire: Flackwell Heath Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) are currently fighting planning applications by two Traveller families to Wycombe District Council (see below).

Residents’ Associations

Pre-existing residents’ associations can provide objectors with a ready structure of local influence, resources and links to local government. Often they have taken the lead in campaigns against sites, and, in some cases, provided a loose-knit group of opposition with the structure, influence and direction that it formerly lacked. In others, they have teamed up with local action groups to re-invigorate their efforts.

  • Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire: In July 2012, two Traveller families put in planning applications to Wycombe District Council. Flackwell Heath Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) acted immediately. Successfully lobbying the district council to extend the closing date for neighbour comments, Flackwell Heath RAID leafletted most of the village with nearly 2,000 copies of a notice that detailed how and on what grounds residents should issue complaints, resulting in 474 local objections.[32] (Flackwell Heath RAID was also monitoring the similar situation in Wilmslow, Cheshire.) After gaining coverage in the local newspaper, the Bucks Free Press, RAID began to receive statements of support from individual ward councillors.[33] With the backing of local authority officials, the Flackwell Heath Residents’ Association (FHRA) allowed RAID to make use of its name and resources to distribute a poster objecting to the planning application.[34] Wycombe District Council’s Natural Environment Officer ruled that while he ‘would generally consider the site suitable for this type of development in landscape terms I do not regard the proposal as acceptable’, and the parish council objected to the plans. By August, RAID had ‘employed the services of Mark Thackeray at Walsingham Planning to provide a full and objective report on the planning application’, which it then submitted to the district council, which subsequently recommended that the application be refused.[35] On 31 August, officers and councillors at a planning meeting voted unanimously to reject the site. The Travellers appealed, and a new application to the district council is awaiting consideration.[36]
  • Tonbridge, Kent: In July 2012, Hadlow Park Residents’ Association (HPRA) secretary Richard Prince spoke to the local newspaper, the Tonbridge Courier, to oppose an application to Tonbridge Borough Council by Terry Wilson. Wilson’s application was to site a caravan and mobile home on land that he owned on Cemetery Lane, Hadlow. One resident feared the site would lead to a ‘full-scale Gypsy encampment’[37] (for more details see below).
  • Windsor, Berkshire: In January 2011, over 250 residents, including members of Old Windsor Residents’ Association (OWRA), attended a parish council meeting to complain about Gypsy and Traveller accommodation on Burfield Road.[38] An application for five pitches by Fred Sines was met with fierce objection and, in a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, the chairman of OWRA questioned Sines’ official Gypsy status and objected to the site being built on greenbelt land.[39] By 20 March 2011, parish councillor and planning officer Malcolm Beer had resigned after receiving criticism for entering into discussions with Sines about the site.[40] In April, council officers recommended refusing the site after receiving 152 letters of objection. Among those council officers who voted against the site was Councillor Lynne Jones, a member of OWRA.[41] The application was subsequently withdrawn.
  • Alderbury, Wiltshire: In July 2012, Alderbury and Clarendon Residents Group (ACRG), along with Wiltshire Council, celebrated after a government planning inspector rejected David Cooper’s plans to turn land that his family had owned for almost forty years into a four pitch site for eight caravans to house his family.[42] The decision was made on the basis that development of the site would spoil the view of local listed buildings, and an inquiry questioned the Gypsy status of Cooper’s daughters. Cooper was reportedly also ordered to pay costs to ACRG and Wiltshire Council over delays to the inquiry.[43]

Council-advised campaigns

In addition, there are instances in which it appears that councils have taken the lead in directing the efforts of loose-knit groups of angered residents towards more proactive methods of contesting sites. In some instances, the council has been involved in the running of meetings, during which the audience is told how best to make a complaint, sometimes through the use of template letters complaining about planning issues. Complainants are advised to rewrite such complaints in their own voice, and to avoid personal and emotive complaints.

  • Langstone, Newport: Plans to create Gypsy and Traveller sites in Newport attracted such fierce opposition that a special meeting was convened to discuss them. Although the council issued a press release publicising the meeting, a council spokesperson told IRR News they did not know who organised it.[44] According to a councillor, there was a worry that a new Labour administration had placed all proposed sites in Tory wards. Anti Gypsy and Traveller site action groups were reportedly set up as a result of the 600-strong meeting, where only one person present was in favour of the plans. According to a council representative, the chair of the meeting did not tolerate racist statements being made from the floor, but at one point a picture of a particularly bad looking Traveller site was projected, prompting the only person in favour of the sites in attendance to say that it was an extreme example. It was now, according to the councillor, an issue of site suitability – residents were concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the Travellers. The meeting heard directions on how best to launch an official objection to planned sites through the proper channels.[45] After receiving 7,000 complaints, Newport City Council announced it had found five potential sites, although it steered clear of Langstone.[46]

    Upper Telston Lane Residents' Association outside the Hopgarden Farm site
  • Otford, Kent: In January 2010, Ann Wenham, a Romany Gypsy, applied for temporary planning permission for two caravans on land that she owned on Hopgarden Farm, just off Telston Lane in Otford. Over 200 residents objected to Sevenoaks District Council’s planning committee. One resident told the Sevenoaks Chronicle that ‘we knew straight away what they were and we contacted the council’.[47] Throughout early 2010, email correspondence reveals that there were concerns from the parish council that if Councillor John Edwards-Winser spoke on behalf of the objecting members of Upper Telston Lane Residents’ Association (UTLRA), he could be reported to the standards board for having a prejudicial interest (Edwards-Winser is both a councillor and a member of UTLRA).[48] In July 2010, the application was turned down. Wenham appealed, leading twelve households to buy six acres of land surrounding the site, for fear that it would spread.[49] In February 2011, government planning inspector Stuart Reid hosted a planning meeting which saw thirty local protestors object. Planning officers recommended that the application be turned down. Wenham appealed again after complying with the officers’ recommendations. The residents of Telston Lane responded by posting leaflets to 500 homes around the village.[50] (There are just forty-two houses on Telston Lane.)
  • Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire: Travellers living on land they own were served with an injunction taken out by South Cambridgeshire District Council. Six of the families living on the Smithy Fen site appealed the decision, prompting opposition from local residents. Some of these residents used to be part of the now-inactive Cottenham Residents’ Association (also known as Middle England in Revolt) which was established to oppose the arrival of the first Travellers into Smithy Fen in 2003.[51] South Cambridgeshire District Council arranged a meeting for these residents and informed them as to how to launch complaints. Subsequently, the Travellers’ appeal was rejected. Tory Councillor Mervyn Loynes, a former member of the council’s planning committee, which was in part responsible for the outcome of the case, was recently found to have breached equality laws when he said he would like to put a minefield around the site.[52] (For more information, see the Traveller Solidarity Network.)[53]

Planning officers overruled

It is common for planning officers to recommend that planning permission applications be given the go-ahead. But in some cases councillors at planning committee meetings choose to ignore such recommendations and reject applications instead. Emboldened by the strength of local hostility to Gypsy and Traveller site proposals, the decision is ultimately not resolved according to best planning procedures, although objections to sites usually refer to those grounds.

  • Bardwell and Stanton, Suffolk: On 7 July 2012, Stanton Parish Council held an extraordinary meeting to cater for 154 members of the public. After a vote initiated by an audience member, it was revealed that only one person in attendance was in favour of the proposals for a one-pitch site on Glassfield Road.[54] Parish councillors decided that they would write a letter of objection to St Edmundsbury Borough Council. Despite a recommendation that the site be approved from officers of the borough council’s development control committee, in August 2012 councillors rejected the application.[55]
  • Mole Valley, Surrey: In January 2011, residents of River Lane complained to a meeting of Mole Valley District Council’s executive committee about a temporary Gypsy site where occupants were seeking permanent planning permission after the council had failed to find alternative housing for them.[56] In July 2011, Mole Valley’s MP Sir Paul Beresford raised the site as a subject for parliamentary debate, saying he was worried that ‘the local authority may use a sympathy consideration’.[57] A 700-strong petition added pressure on the council to find an alternative site rather than allow the occupants to remain on River Lane.[58] Despite Mole Valley District Council planning officers’ recommendations that the site receive permanent planning permission, councillors voted to reject it. Susan King, who lives on the site, vowed to stay, saying ‘those councillors have wrecked our Christmas and our futures and our children’s futures’.[59] King launched an appeal in February 2012 which Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, decided to assess himself. A planning inquiry, which will report to Pickles, is yet to determine the outcome. According to the district council, Pickles’ decision has been delayed.[60]
  • Salters Lane, Darlington: On 19 April 2012, over 100 people at a meeting to oppose six potential pitches formed a residents’ action group. In July, at a meeting of the council’s planning committee, councillors threw out bids for two sites accommodating four families in the village of Salters, rejecting the recommendation of planning officers to approve them, and in spite of the fact that no formal complaints had been submitted. The principal planning officer drew attention to the county’s shortfall of official sites, but councillors implied that more sites would put off business. A spokesman for the families said ‘we are talking about three families here who just want to have somewhere to live without being moved on by the police’.[61]

Letter-writing campaigns

One of the tools that campaigners against sites use is organising of letters of objection to be sent to the local authority. These letters are often written with guidance provided in council-backed meetings or, in the case of better-resourced and organised groups, under the direction of hired planning professionals. They frequently take the form of a standard letter or template that is altered slightly by each complainant. In some cases, it appears that the number of letters being sent vastly outnumbers the number of people realistically likely to be affected by a development.

  • Tonbridge, Kent: On 28 June 2012, Philip Hurling, a chartered town planner, sent a letter to Richard Prince, the secretary of Hadlow Park Residents’ Association (HPRA) outlining eleven ways in which a site application by Terry Wilson on Cemetery Lane could be fought on planning grounds. Prince replied to Hurling, stating that when directing others to complain about the site ‘the only thing we need to do is recommend that they adapt ideas here and there in their own words as far as possible to avoid giving the impression of a “standard letter”’. Prince then forwarded this information to Hadlow Parish Council. [62] The next day, on 29 June 2012, news of the campaign had reached the Tonbridge Courier. Throughout early July, a number of neighbour complaints were made to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council about the site (all variations on reasons laid out by town planner Hurling).[63] The Planning and Environment Committee reassured HPRA that ‘the Council is wholly against the extension of the use of this site’. The council’s planning officers gave the application the green light, however the Planning and Environment Committee refused it stating that Hadlow Parish Council ‘does not believe that the justifications of the planning officers are valid’.[64]
  • Wilmslow, Cheshire: After Cheshire East Council released plans to create permanent sites, the local Wilmslow Express announced ‘Gypsy home is coming to land near you’.[65] Over 100 residents then attended a town council planning meeting to complain – channelling their energy into fighting an application by John Allan for one pitch on Moor Lane.[66] Throughout April 2012, residents embarked on a door-knocking campaign to encourage opposition, writing to George Osborne for support, and as a result Wilmslow, Chorley and Mobberley parish councils voted against the plan.[67] As news of the proposed site reached the Daily Mail, which highlighted the 700 objections made by ‘residents in Premier League Stars’ exclusive home town’, Cheshire East Council’s Northern Planning Committee rejected the bid on 4 July 2012.[68]
  • Horam, Sussex: In October 2011, a family of Travellers lost an application to stay on land at Meadows Farm, after Wealdon District Council responded to fifty-two complaints from local residents and Horam and Chiddingly parish councils. Ms Moxon, who lived on the site, said that ‘the main troublemaker used to chat to me over the fence but the minute the word gypsy was mentioned that was it’.[69]
  • Farringdon, Devon: In January 2012, an application for more pitches on a site at Princes’ Paddock by the Doran family received over 170 objection letters from locals, and objections from Farringdon Parish Council, worried that the granting of one more pitch on the site would create an ‘unbalanced mix’ of communities. Parish council chairman Alan Pearce and residents’ association chairman Tony Sayers both oppose the plans.[70]

This list is by no means exhaustive.

Anti-site meeting in Crewe, 15 October 2011

While there is nothing new in local objections to Gypsy and Traveller sites, it appears that campaigns are becoming more organised and coordinated. In January 2011, Meriden RAID’s national conference for people fighting against sites around the UK attracted some seventy-five delegates.[71] Groups have been writing to each other to offer campaigning strategies, sharing tactics and forging coalitions. A legal infrastructure appears to have developed, and action groups are claiming to have access to a shared network of planning and legal experts. Often such a collaboration finds common purpose with local government and acts to the same end. And if and when this tactic fails, local authorities are now using the Localism Act (which under the guise of eliminating overly-bureaucratic central government gives local authorities the final say on local development decisions) to veto applications. This is especially clear when the issue is planning suitability –when the opinion of those qualified to evaluate site suitability is refuted and refused by local politicians.

A picture is emerging of isolated Gypsy and Traveller families, with little support and limited funds, up against the best legal and expert advice available, working in tandem with the machinations of local politics. Localism has put the power back into communities in one sense – the power to buy expertise and bully the powerless.

Related links

Irish Traveller Movement in Britain

Traveller Solidarity Network

National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups

Read an IRR News story: ‘Dale Farm: children’s welfare’

Read an IRR News story: ‘Middle England’s last stand’

Read an IRR News story: ‘Notes on the new Conservative Traveller policy’

[1] Although these groups refer to themselves as ‘residents’ groups’, the terminology is itself discriminatory, implying that Gypsies and Travellers are not residents of the area that they live in. [2] Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010. [3] According to the EHRC, 90 per cent of planning applications by Gypsies and Travellers are rejected, compared to a national average of 20 per cent. [4] ‘Planning for traveller sites’, Department for Communities and Local Government, April 2011. [5] Fight for Sites: A call to action, Traveller Solidarity Network, 2012. [6] Joanna Richardson and Andrew Ryder, ‘Setting the context: Gypsies and Travellers in British society’, in Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society (Bristol, Policy Press, 2012). [7] Sarah Cemlyn, Margaret Greenfields, Joanna Richardson, Andrew Ryder, Patrice Van Cleemput, ‘A Critique of UK Coalition Government Policy on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities’, Equality and Diversity Forum, June 2011. [8] Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee, 2011, quoted in Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society. [9] Telegraph, 15 January 2011. [10] For a fuller account, see Johnny Howarth’s short film The battle for Meriden green belt, the Guardian, 2010. [11] In an email dated 30 January 2012, Hockley Heath Parish Council revealed that in: ‘December 2011 / January 2012 – Hockley Heath Residents Association verbally requested a grant of up to £10,000 to help fund planning consultants fees which would be incurred in developing material to fight against [my emphasis] a village green belt site being considered for a Gypsy and Travellers Site. Local residents wished to engage experts to give detailed planning reasoning to assist with fighting this application should the opportunity arise.  The Parish Council heard the application at the December 2011 meeting and said that it would go out to secure 3 quotes from Planning Consultants to see what the cost would be.  At the January 2012 Parish Council meeting, it was brought to the Parish Council's attention that the Association had already engaged a consultant at a cost of £6,595 plus VAT.  The Parish Council had received 2 quotes for planning circa £1,300 and circa £5,000.  It was felt that for the work proposed, the quote for £6,595 was reasonable and would be approved should an application be received.’ [12] Leicester Mercury, 12 September 2012. [13] Stoke Sentinel, 22 November 2011. [14] Crewe Chronicle, 23 November 2011. [15]Crewe Against Traveller Sites: hate group or action group?’, suite101.com. [16] Crew Chronicle, 25 April 2012. [17] Wilmslow.co.uk, 17 May 2012. [18] Letter circulated by PARG, available online here (word document). [19] Northwich Guardian, 20 August 2012. [20] Eastern Daily Press 24, 12 July 2012. [21] Gloucester Citizen, 28 October 2011. [22] Gloucester Citizen, 1 February 2012. [23] Gloucester Citizen, 16 February 2012. [24] Gloucester Citizen, 10 April 2012. [25] Stanton Wick Action Group, Press Release, 14 September 2012. [26] Somerset Guardian, 16 August 2012. [27] Knights Solicitors, 'Strategic approach to Travellers sites recommended'. [28] Wakefield Express, 19 March 2012. [29] Wakefield Express, 18 October 2012. [30] South Wales Evening Post, 19 October 2012. [31] South Wales Evening Post, 30 October 2012. [32] Flackwell Heath RAID blog, 31 July 2012. [33] Flackwell Heath RAID blog, 8 August 2012. [34] Flackwell Heath RAID blog, 9 August 2012. [35] Flackwell Heath RAID blog, 21 August 2012. [36] Bucks Free Press, 17 October 2012. [37] Tonbridge Courier, 27 July 2012. [38] Windsor Observer, 28 January 2011. [39] Windsor Observer, 19 February 2011. [40] Windsor Observer, 20 March 2011. [41] Windsor Observer, 10 April 2011. [42] Salisbury Journal, 5 July 2012. [43] Development Control Services, 29 June 2012. [44] Information obtained by telephone and email correspondence. [45] From a telephone conversation with a councillor, 21 September 2012. [46] South Wales Argus, 23 October 2012. [47] Sevenoaks Chronicle, 20 January 2010. [48] Information obtained by Freedom of Information requests to Otford Parish Council, received 26 September 2012. [49] Sevenoaks Chronicle, 4 February 2012. [50] Sevenoaks Chronicle, 3 July 2012. [51] Daily Telegraph, 15 August 2004. [52] BBC News, 13 September 2012. [53] Traveller Solidarity Network, Smithy Fen. [54] Minutes of the extraordinary meeting of Stanton Parish Council, 7 July 2011. [55] Bury Free Press, 25 August 2012. [56] Leatherhead Advertiser, 11 January 2011. [57] Leatherhead Advertiser, 22 July 2011. [58] Leatherhead Advertiser, 1 December 2011. [59] Leatherhead Advertiser, 5 December 2011. [60] Leatherhead Advertiser, 22 June 2012. [61] Northern Echo, 10 July 2012. [62] Information about email correspondence obtained by the Institute of Race relations on 12 September 2012 via Freedom of Information requests. [63] Planning documents and neighbour responses, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, available here. [64] Email from David Carey, Chair of HPC’s Planning and Environment Committee, to Barry Tubbs, Chair of HPRA, 2 August 2012. [65] Wilmslow Express, 29 September 2011. [66] Wilmslow, 24 April 2012. [67] Wilmslow Express, 10 May 2012. [68] Daily Mail, 5 July 2012. [69] Sussex Courier, 14 October 2011. [70] Exeter Express and Echo, 19 January 2012. [71] Coventry Telegraph, 17 January 2011.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

8 thoughts on “Localism, populism and the fight against sites

  1. The late Vaclav Havel who led his country to the amazing Velvet Revolution was a proponent of inclusion rather than discrimination and this is still the official stance of the 47 nations which make up the Council of Europe.Some of these are emerging nations with little or no history of democracy but do subscribe to the United Nation’s declaration of Human rights nevertheless.Mature democracies like France,Spain and Italy sometimes fall short and have been admonished by the commissioners for letting the side down and this year GB Minister,Eric Pickles,was hauled over the coals by Thomas Hammaberg for disgraceful lapses at Dale Farm,Essex.
    “A sign of a true democracy,Vaclav Havel used to say,is the way it treats minorities”

  2. I’m from Stanley and I’d like to say you’re very biased and you know absolutely nothing about the ‘residents’ you are trying to portray in a bad light. My 84 year old grandma has a house close to local fields and rural land where the same travellers often pitch their homes. One night my sister and I were staying over and as it was a weekend we were up very late. We saw someone walk by the conservatory and try the door. Obviously we were terrified but we ran to the window to see who our intruder was, it was one of the travellers. He had come to burgle our home via the same route (well hidden with a wall and foliage) that we had been burgled just a few weeks earlier (Same person or coincidence in this area of very low crime?). He rejoined his companions in the street when he realised the house wasn’t unguarded, the other two had been trying all the houses in the street and had a woman’s handbag, and some jackets that police later told us had been taken from the back of a family’s car they had smashed into. Our friend in the police told us this was the same problem every time the ‘travellers’ arrived in Stanley, so maybe, just maybe, if the travellers who like to stay in Stanley had more respect for the people who have to live here permanently, they would get some respect in turn? Good and bad exist in all races and unfortunately these traveller teenagers and the people who brought them up to be this way have only themselves to blame for not getting their permanent pitches, which would be on our rapidly disappearing greenbelt can I add.

  3. What your bias and ill researched article fails to mention about Meriden RAID is the travellers had broken planning restrictions by setting up a site on green belt land with no permission to do so. I am not allowed to buy a field and build on it without permission, why should the law of the land not apply to everyone?

  4. Mark Hearst sums up the issue precisely: the general population are limited in what they can do with regards development. Why then should a minority ride roughshod over the same legislation simply because they come from a particular ethnic group?

  5. What you fail to mention in your one sided article is the refusal of travellers to integrate and indeed go out of their way to cause as much trouble as humanly possible with local people. The local shops have to employ security staff whenever they turn up here in Patcham. Imagine that! Security staff at the village stores.

  6. In 2011 and 2013, police raided 8 gypsy and traveller camps and freed more than 50 people (mostly with learning disabilities or mental health problems)who had been enslaved by the travellers, forced to do all the hard work for nothing, beaten, abused and threatened with violence should they try to escape.
    Police believe this was only the tip of the iceberg of vulnerable people enslaved by travellers.
    I think it may be time for you to reconsider your definitions of who is “bullying” and who is “powerless”.

  7. What is being said about Gypsies and Travellers regarding their ‘association’ with anti-social behaviour, crime etc may not go down that well should this be said generally about black people or any other minority communities established in UK. This could mount to racially motivated discrimination. If there are any Gypsies and Travellers that break the law they need to be dealt with by the justice system like any other citizens, however it would be wrong to tar them all with the same brush. Their ethnicity is recongnised by law, Equality Act 2010, which offers them protection from discrimination. Also sucessive governments have requested councils to do accommodation needs assessments for G&Ts as there is a clear need for sites which is their acceptable type of accommodation in line with their nomadic way of life. The government will need to plan on how to accommodate this part of the community in housing which is not going to be a very sensitive issue to deal with.

  8. We live in Bedford in a quiet area housing association house. It’s a lovely community and everyone takes pride and care but we are suffering an awful onslaught of vandalism, death threats, and general feeling of dread when we are all at work due to irish feral youths who’s family have been housed a couple of miles up the road from us. I just cannot believe the stress and trouble caused in just a week. Out of nowhere we are feeling like we are under siege. Police do nothing and seem helpless to stop them. Now residents of the whole local area have had enough. All i have read is anti discrimination laws to protect these scumbags but no laws to protect our families or property. Who helps us? This has now turned really nasty and i dread how things are spiraling out of control. We just want them moved on. Why are normal law abiding citizens not protected?

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