The long-term trend of cultural apartheid against the gypsy & travelling community through subjective discriminatory intepretation of changing government policy over the years started with local authorities’ enthusiastic adherance to implementing section 23 of the ‘1968 Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act’ which gave powers to close commons to travellers whilst section 24 of the same act to provide traveller sites was ignored. It resulted in long-running displacement and ostracisation of the culturally diverse gypsy & travelling community.
The ghettoisation of the travelling community to marginal bits of land around the country (due in part to long-term population dynamics which is a consideration in a densely populated island like the UK), and in some cases, the abandonment of a cultural lifestyle and retreat to conventional housing stepped up a gear with the passing of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 by the Conservative Government, which repealed the duty of local authorities to provide sites, who publicly stated that “gypsies and travellers should buy their own land”. However, many travellers were excluded from access to a planning process subject to highly complex procedures and a dearth of advice – with the result that many were stranded in legal terms and compelled to live on their own land without planning permission. Travellers across the country faced such impossible odds in actually receiving planning permission for Traveller sites over many years that there was estimated to have been an over 90% rate of refusal. The culmination of a wave of failed planning applications and the resulting enforcement actions occurred especially from the late 1990s onwards (there are many travellers who are said to have just walked away from land they purchased). It resulted in a spate of brutal and violent evictions across the country over recent years, most notably Woodside in 2003, Meadowlands in Essex in 2004 and Twin Oaks Caravan Park in Ridge in Hertfordshire in Jan 2005. See: http://www.advocacynet.org/ website for footage of previous evictions by Constant.
Dale Farm became a refuge in the last few years for families evicted from other sites. (see background info below for a brief more detailed historical overview of what’s happened at Dale Farm). Around 20% of the estimated 18,000 gypsy caravans in the UK are not accommodated on authorised sites.
Human Rights campaigner and advocate of Roma as well as Irish Travellers – Grattan Puxon: “Travellers should not have to live in constant fear of eviction with their lives and communities under constant threat. They should not have to be forced out of their homes and off their land by bulldozers and police. This constant hounding, marginalisation, and lack of provision is how rural England does ethnic cleansing. It is time for a resurgence of support for Gypsy and Traveller communities. Time to stand against the extreme racial discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Time to defend the right of Gypsies and Travellers to land, life, respect, and dignity.”
The travelling community is a culture that has long been discriminated in this country by successive governments and which, as a result, has seen subsequent generations from sections of the traveller community at friction with settled communities across the country as gypsies and travellers are left with no option but to park up on unauthorised sites or public land in areas where no authorised sites are available and there are no stopping places and where locating vacant sites to settle upon become rarer and rarer in ever decreasing circles as the years go by.
Travellers Advice Team at the Community Law Partnership: http://www.gypsy-traveller.org/your-rights/law/travellers-advice-team/
Irish Travellers Movement in Britain: http://www.irishtraveller.org.uk/
Traveller Solidarity: http://travellersolidarity.org/
Traveller Times: http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/website/News.htm
Traveller Law Reform Project:http://www.travellerslaw.org.uk/
London Gypsy and Traveller Unit: http://www.lgtu.org.uk/
Advocacy Project: http://www.advocacynet.org/