What is the Localism Bill?
The Coalition Government wants to change the law to shift power away from central government and towards local people. The main measures of the Localism Bill include a reform of the planning system to make it clearer and fairer, and ensure decisions about housing are taken locally.
The Government plans to abolish regional strategies that central government set for building homes in each part of the country, including any targets that were set by the previous government for providing gypsy and traveller sites. The Coalition says this will enable local councils to decide how many homes are built each year and where.
Local communities will also be able to draw up a neighbourhood development plan to have a say about where new homes, businesses and shops should go and what they should look like.
The Localism Bill will also strengthen local authorities’ powers to tackle people who abuse the planning system, such as making deliberately misleading planning applications or building a home on land without planning permission.
How could the Localism Bill affect Gypsies and Travellers?
There are not enough authorised sites to accommodate the caravan-dwelling Gypsy and Traveller population in England. This forces Gypsies and Travellers to set up home on unauthorised land – land they may own but without planning permission. If councils have greater eviction powers for planning law breaches, there are fears that Gypsies and Travellers will have nowhere to go. And if planning decisions are made at a local level with no specific targets set by central government to provide more sites, the site shortages and the problems they bring are likely to get worse.
How many Gypsies and Travellers are there on unauthorised sites?
According to government figures, there are 18,146 Gypsy and Traveller caravans in England and 3,636 (about 20 per cent) are on unauthorised sites*. Numbers have been growing over the last decade with 728 recorded in 2000 and 2,395 in 2010.
*Source: Count of Gypsy and Traveller Caravans July 2010, Department for Communities and Local Government