PHOTO The Brook Green Gypsy and Traveller site in Norfolk
Just one week from today, we're taking action in solidarity with the
families of Dale Farm, and Traveller families across the country who face
racism and state violence wherever they go.
Join us to expose the role the government plays in attacking Travellers'
rights and criminalising entire communities.
Friday 19th October, 1pm at Victoria Station, London
Mass Action - Dale Farm Anniversary - Evict the Deparment for Communities
and Local Government!
One Year Ago, at dawn on 19 October 2011, hundreds of riot police and
bailiffs stormed the Dale Farm Traveller community to carry out one of the
largest and most brutal evictions in UK history.
Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government funded the
Dale Farm eviction to the tune of £1.2 million. They are also leading the
wholesale attack on Gypsy and Traveller rights, abolishing local
government targets for the provision of sites and strengthening powers to
evict through the Localism Act.
It is time to fight back! Join the Traveller Solidarity Network's mass
action to evict the Department for Communities and Local Government - the
eviction to end all evictions!
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Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about helping
out and crash space.
Watch the promo video and read blog updates: http://travellersolidarity.org/
Follow Traveller Solidarity on Twitter: @TravellerSol
Thinking about coming to the action, but want to find out more? Come to
the action briefing at for an overview and Q&As about the protest!
Tuesday 16th October 8pm-8.30pm at Cuts Cafe, 1 Stamford St, SE1 9NT
Pickles reaffirms the 'demonisation' of Gypsy and Traveller communities
There are approximately 5,000 council pitches and a further 8,500 privately owned pitches in England, so we do have legitimate places for our 13,500 travelling families. The only problem is that there are actually more than 18,000 caravans in use by the Gypsy and Traveller community – leaving a significant number of people with no legal right to set up home.
Planning applications for new sites are nearly always opposed, even by those living a long away from the land under consideration. Just the mention of a possibility of a new site in an area will often inspire a local petition and an action group.
Local press will give front page coverage to the campaign to stop this new development and resistance to this possible "damage" to the local community will be fuelled. Very rarely will the objectors have first hand knowledge of the community and many of their fears are fuelled by stereotypical assumptions. It sometimes feels as if Gypsies and Travellers are targets for prejudice in our country.
A frequently asked question is, why can't these people stay where they currently are? The reality for many is that they have no legal right to stay where they are, even if they actually own the land that their caravan is parked on. Families with children can be moved on by authorities, despite the problems it causes for families accessing health and education services.
The trouble with many apparently sound policy announcements are unintended consequences they cause. In this case, we risk the further demonisation of an ethnic minority based on centuries of cultural heritage, because their life choices appear at odds with the settled community.
The reality is that we do not have enough pitches for the number of Gypsy and Traveller families in this country, and we need to build more. Last January the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) announced funding for 600 new pitches across the country, leaving at least 3,500 families with no legitimate pitch in the foreseeable future.
Broadland Housing was a successful bidder for part of the HCA pot, and we are currently with our local authority partner to find a site for 12 pitches. The bid was based on the success of a site we built four years ago on the edge of Norwich, where eight families now live and take part in the local community. We have found these tenancies no more difficult to manage than any of the other properties we own nearby. Indeed it has been easier than we expected; the risk averse assumptions we made at the viability stage have proved wildly inappropriate and simply demonstrated the latent prejudices we had as a team at the start of this process.
Politicians need to be brave about meeting the needs of Travellers. We need legitimate sites, and powers to move families on should come only once we can be sure we have enough pitches for Gypsy and Traveller families, not before.
Michael Newey is chief executive of Broadland Housing Group