Court to hear legal challenge to planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers in December

A court will hear a legal challenge on 10 and 11 December over the lawfulness of the government’s planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers, it has been reported.

London Gypsies & Travellers (LGT) said the current planning definition, adopted in 2015, meant 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, the group said, “because many councils now say there are no needs for more sites in their areas and stop looking for land”.

LGT said campaigners and organisations across the country had been trying to challenge the policy for many years. The group added that it had 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.

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The legal challenge has been lodged by Lisa Smith, a Romany woman in North West Leicestershire, against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Ms Smith’s 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, LGT said. “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.”

LGT, Friends Families and Travellers and Southwark Travellers Action Group are joining the challenge together as interveners. Other organisations supporting the case as interveners are the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, Liberty and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Mena Mongan, LGT’s Community Engagement Officer, said: “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.”

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