Take a lead from Leeds on gypsy and traveller sites

15 January 2015

The London Assembly is calling on the Mayor to pilot temporary sites for gypsies and travellers.

An Assembly Housing Committee investigation has found that the Mayor has not spent £523,000 of available government money to provide sites.

In a letter to the Mayor[1], the Assembly highlights innovative work being done elsewhere, which could be replicated in London.

Leeds City Council is saving £200,000 a year by introducing ‘toleration zones’, temporary sites for gypsies and travellers. In doing so, they have reduced crime and challenged the idea gypsy sites are beset by crime.

Kent County Council has introduced “waiting lists” for sites, which means pitches are given out in a fair way and sites do not become dominated by a few families.

The letter also highlights the prejudices gypsies and travellers face from lacking a permanent site and address. These include problems accessing basic health and education services, sometimes poor living conditions and loneliness due to being away from their traditional way of life.

The Housing Committee recommends releasing land held by the Mayor, better coordination between councils and more knowledge of available funds to improve the situation.

Darren Johnson AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee, said:

“London’s diversity is supposed to be its strength, but boroughs and the Mayor are falling well behind some of the outstanding work being done elsewhere.

“A pilot scheme, like the innovative system put in place in Leeds, could radically improve the lives of gypsies and travellers, while ensuring a balance with existing communities’ wishes.”

Notes for Editors

The full letter to the Mayor is below.

Darren Johnson AM, Chair of the Housing Committee is available for interview. See contact details below.

As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For media enquiries, please contact Ash Singleton on 020 7983 5769. For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officer. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.