Thursday evening I chaired the launch meeting of the Irish Traveller Movement's report Planning for Gypsies and Travellers: the Impact of Localism, the Principal Authors of which are Michael Hargreaves and Matthew Brindley. (See www.irishtraveller.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ITMB-Planning-for-Gypsies-and-Travellers-Executive-Summary1.pdf) They got 100 responses to their survey of local authorities in England in three different regions and found that the number of residential pitches for which planning permission would be granted has fallen from 2,919 in the Regional Strategies now being abolished, to 1,395 in current plans. This is because the Coalition Government has torn up the laboriously constructed system of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments followed by public inquiries, and limited redistribution of the numbers to take into account the fact that some local authorities hadn't pulled their weight. There is nothing in the Localism Bill to oblige local authorities to cooperate with their neighbours, and as they have a totally free hand to decide for themselves whether to grant planning permission for Traveller sited, and if so for hos many pitches, there was bound to be a catastrophic fall in provision. The Bill contains no fall-back powers for the Secretary of State to correct any shortfall, such as there was in the Act of 1968, repealed by the Tories in 1994 just when it was beginning to work. This is a case of déja vu.
I really do wonder how Ministers are going to react when confronted with proof that the Localism Bill means that 20% of the Gypsy and Traveller population will remain homeless for another generation.