Doubling Gypsy Pitches Will Have "Major Impact"

Targets for more Traveller sites deemed "unrealistic"

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A London Assembly member has warned of the negative impact on council budgets and housing targets of having to meet gypsy and traveller pitch targets across the capital.

The London Plan, the Mayor’s planning development blueprint for the next 20 years, is required by government to increase the number of pitches for gypsies and travellers by 538, more than doubling the current provision. London councils have been tasked with the job of finding the land and building the new sites. Hammersmith and Fulham, which currently has no travellers' pitches, is due to get five of them.

But a report compiled by the London Assembly Conservative Group points to the possible negative consequences of these targets.

Author of the report, Tony Arbour AM, said, "We analysed the background research on this issue, and carried out a survey of London boroughs. We found that they are extremely worried that this could mean not only a financial burden but that wider housing targets, including the delivery of affordable housing could be put at risk.

"There is no valid rationale for doubling the number of pitches. Indeed the number of caravans requiring pitches has fallen by 15% in recent years. We are told that the target is based on relocating those currently in regular housing to pitches because they have a ‘psychological aversion to bricks and mortar’; this is not based on scientific research and cannot justify the expenditure.

"We hope that the Mayor will use this report to tell the government that the use of resources should not be wasted meeting unrealistic targets," Arbour said.

The London Gypsy and Traveller Unit (LGTU) argues that as many as 808 need to be built in London and that after years of delays, building work should start straight away: "Gypsies and Travellers have been waiting a long time. The need is clear and immediate," a recent LGTU report states.

February 5, 2010