Gypsy and traveller communities in Britain include Romany gypsies, Irish travellers, new travellers and occupational travellers (including show people), and all these groups experience wide-ranging inequalities.
A key issue is the lack of suitable, secure accommodation. Planning policy has shifted away from publicly-owned sites to self provision by the communities themselves, but gypsies and travellers often experience difficulties in applying for planning permissions and end up caught between an insufficient supply of suitable accommodation on the one hand, and the insecurity of unauthorised encampments and developments on the other, and face a cycle of evictions, typically linked to violent and threatening behaviour from private bailiff companies.
In Sussex, every traveller group is represented. In West Sussex there are 11 council traveller sites; no transit site; and few ‘nomadic travellers’ (families still moving on a regular basis). East Sussex has 4 council-run permanent sites and one transit site. East Sussex has few nomadic families but has a large population of travellers living in settled accommodation in certain towns. Brighton and Hove does not have a permanent site and has 1 transit site where families can stay for 1-3 months, depending on health issues. Brighton and Hove has a far larger traveller population than available site provision and desperately needs a permanent site. The lack of this provision results in many travellers facing the perpetual cycle of evictions with nowhere legal to stop. All three authorities have private sites where families have gained temporary planning permission, but they may still be forced to leave due to complicated planning laws (as we saw with Dale Farm).
The answer to unauthorised encampments and unauthorised developments lies in ensuring that there is adequate authorised site provision, both permanent and transit. In Brighton and Hove, local MP Simon Kirby has led campaigns against traveller sites and sought to make the situation even worse for gypsies and travellers by seeking powers to disperse them even more quickly from unauthorised encampments when he introduced the Ten Minute Rule Bill (the Travellers (Unauthorised Encampments) Bill).
Brighton UAF supports national campaigns in support of travellers and will work locally to oppose anti-traveller racism; to support the rights of travellers to pursue their way of life; and to promote the peaceful co-existence between settled and traveller communities.