Dale Farm: let them stay!

Today several hundred gypsies and travellers are due to be evicted from a site they own but don’t have planning permission to occupy.

I feel really sad about this. They’ve been on the site for ten years, children are in school, elderly and vulnerable residents are receiving support services. All this will be uprooted and destroyed. Their homes and lives totally disrupted.

Many commentators say that it’d be unfair to give them retrospective permission. That they need to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

But this ignores the massive stigma facing gypsies and travellers in our society today. The fear and hatred directed towards them as a group is phenomenal. What hope for them in getting planning permission for anything? What Councillor, his mind on reelection or promotion, is going to back that? It’s hard enough to get agreement to build a pretty cottage or two in a rural area, let alone a travellers site.

I have personal experience to share from a previous job. One of the requirements of regional plans was to agree local targets for sites for gypsies and travellers. Not saying where or how, just how many each area needed to find. The (Labour) government even gave out funding to help provide them. Part of my job was to give evidence to the plan Enquiry in Public. I was supporting these principles and argued that there was a pressing need for local authorities to take action. And local authority representative after local authority representative stood up to argue against this.

All the classic NIMBY lines came out. Yes there is a need but not here, not us, not now….

And this is why I believe that the gypsies at Dale Farm should be allowed to stay. Because there is precious little chance of them getting a fair say in the planning system. The whole thing is stacked against them. And now the Tories have abolished the regional plans that sought to increase provision there is little or no chance of this situation improving.

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