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20/01/2021

Study highlights huge shortage of Traveller pitches

Words: Laura Edgar
Traveller encampment / iStock: 996097266

There are 1,696 Traveller households on waiting lists for pitches in England – but only 59 permanent and 42 transit pitches available, according to research by Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT).

The charity, which works on behalf of all Gypsies, Travellers and Roma people, says its research calls attention to the shortage of pitches available for Gypsy and Traveller people. The findings reinforce its February 2020 research, which revealed that only eight out of 68 councils in the South East had identified enough land in their areas for Travellers to live.

News of the shortfall comes while the government’s response to a Home Office consultation on criminalising trespass and increasing police powers against unauthorised encampments is awaited.

The proposals would see families living on unauthorised encampments facing prison, a fine or the removal of their home for, says FFT, “the crime of having nowhere else to go”.

FFT pointed to its study published in September 2020, which suggested that 93.7 per cent of police bodies believe that site provision is a solution to unauthorised encampments.

This latest study calls on the government to change its approach to unauthorised encampments from one of enforcement to one that prioritises provision of sites and negotiated stopping arrangements. Furthermore, the government should reintroduce a statutory duty for local authorities to meet the assessed need for Gypsy and Traveller sites.

Sarah Sweeney, policy and communications manager at Friends, Families and Travellers, said: “It is deeply unfair that while the government is dramatically failing to identify enough land for Gypsy and Traveller families to live on, the home secretary is working to create laws to imprison, fine and remove the homes of families living on roadside camps for the ‘crime’ of having nowhere else to go. The government must do more to identify land for Gypsy and Traveller people to live and stop placing blame on the very families they have failed. Everybody needs a place to live.”

The report and more information can be found on the Friends, Families and Travellers website.

Image credit | iStock

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