A court hearing on 10th and 11th December could determine that the government’s planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers is unlawful.
The current planning definition, adopted in 2015, means that Gypsies and Travellers who have permanently stopped travelling in a caravan for work do not have their accommodation needs counted and struggle to get planning permission on their land. This makes the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation crisis worse, because many councils now say there are no needs for more sites in their areas and stop looking for land.
Campaigners and organisations across the country have been trying to challenge this discriminatory policy for many years. LGT has been working with the Mayor of London to try and introduce a more inclusive definition that would ensure every Gypsy and Traveller in London, whether in housing, on sites or on camps would be recognised and counted.
Now a legal case lodged by Lisa Smith, a Romany woman in North West Leicestershire, against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government might bring a change in the definition, and win an important victory in the fight for sites.
Her family was refused planning permission on a private site because they did not meet the planning definition, as members of the family with severe disabilities could not travel for work. The decision has a damaging effect on their ability to care for the most vulnerable family members and to continue living their traditional way of life together. Lisa Smith is challenging the lawfulness of the definition used to make this decision.
Mena Mongan, LGT’s Community Engagement Officer, believes the case is very significant: “Our human rights are being abused right now, so let’s hope that Lisa can win this court case next month and have the definition changed back. London Gypsies and Travellers are supporting Lisa Smith all the way. Go Lisa, we are here behind you.”
London Gypsies and Travellers, Friends Families and Travellers and Southwark Travellers Action Group are joining the challenge together as “interveners”, bringing evidence of the discriminatory effects of the government’s definition on the wider community. Other organisations supporting the case as interveners are the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, Liberty and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Watch the video below to find out more about how the definition affects Gypsies and Travellers.