Government in court today over planning rules for Travellers

Thursday 10 December 2020

Marc Willers QC and Tessa Buchanan of the Garden Court Chambers Romani Gypsy and Traveller Rights team represent Lisa Smith, instructed by Keith Coughtrie of Deighton Pierce Glynn.

Owen Greenhall of the Garden Court Chambers Romani Gypsy and Traveller Rights team, David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, and Chris Johnson of CLP Solicitors are part of the legal team.

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On 10 December 2020, a court hearing will take place as part of a challenge to the Government’s planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers.

Lisa Smith, a Romany woman from North West Leicestershire, has lodged a legal case against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to challenge the refusal of her planning application and the discriminatory planning definition of a Traveller.

The current planning definition, as of 2015, states that Gypsies and Travellers who have permanently stopped travelling for work (even if this is due to a disability, long-term health condition or age) will not get planning permission to stop on their own land and will not have their accommodation needs assessed and met through this policy.

As a result, many councils argue that there’s no need for additional sites in their local area, further worsening the accommodation crisis facing Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Lisa Smith’s case could see this definition changed and would be considered a significant victory in the fight for more sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

In support of the case, Friends, Families and Travellers along with London Gypsies 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 Gypsy and Traveller community. Other interveners on the case are the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, Liberty and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Speaking about the upcoming legal challenge, Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers:

“Equality and human rights legislation is designed to safeguard those with protected characteristics. To be excluded from being defined as a ‘Traveller’ in planning terms on the basis of having a disability or being elderly is utterly unacceptable and nothing short of discrimination.

Everyone deserves somewhere to call home and it’s about time the Government embedded this most basic human right at the core of its planning policy.”

A version of this press release was first published on Friends, Families and Travellers website on 9 December 2020.

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