Accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers

MQT on 2017-08-10
Session date: 
August 10, 2017
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How will your Housing Strategy and London Plan cater for the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers?


Answer for Accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers

Answer for Accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the London’s greatest strengths is its diversity.  We need to make sure this is recognised and celebrated as we plan for the city of the future.  We must use our policies to tackle inequalities and discrimination and to create a fairer city which all Londoners can participate in and enjoy.  A vitally important element of creating a city for all Londoners is ensuring that all Londoners can access accommodation which is suitable for them and meets their needs, and this includes suitable accommodation for gypsies and travellers.  I would like to acknowledge the important work Assembly Member Copley has done and continues to do with the gypsy and traveller community in London.  He has helped raise awareness of the issues and inequalities often faced by this group, including through their recent campaign “We are so many things”. 


Estimates show that there are around 30,000 gypsies and travellers in London and I am aware that there is much more to do to ensure that the accommodation needs of London’s gypsies and travellers are planned for and met.  My team here in City Hall have been working closely with the gypsy and traveller community to inform the development of policies in the forthcoming draft London Plan and the draft London Housing Strategy.  Through my new Draft London Plan, I will be requiring London boroughs to accurately identify need for permanent gypsy and traveller pitches and to plan to meet this identified need.  This will be based on a more comprehensive definition of ‘gypsies and travellers’ to ensure the housing needs of this group are more accurately assessed.  As my draft London Housing Strategy will set out, meeting this need should involve the development of permanent sites as well as improvements to and protections for existing capacity.  I will work with gypsy and traveller communities and with councils to provide funding through my Affordable Homes programme for new sites and improvements for existing ones. 


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.  As you will know, the Government’s redefinition in planning terms of what constitutes ‘gypsy and traveller’ has created a number of problems in terms of identifying need.  I think their decision to do that was the wrong decision.  It has ended up with some boroughs coming back with an assessed need of zero, including the London Borough of Newham, despite the fact that they lost a traveller pitch as part of the Olympic Park development.


I was interested to hear what you said about your London Plan ensuring that there is a different definition.  Does that mean that, going forward, boroughs, when they are making their assessment of need under your Plan, will not be using the Government’s more restrictive definition of need?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes. 


Tom Copley AM:  Fantastic. 


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Excellent.


Tom Copley AM:  That is very welcome.  In the course of drawing up your current plan, some boroughs have already taken an assessment of need.  Will you be requiring boroughs to undertake a new assessment of need as part of your London Plan process?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The issue you raise about things boroughs are doing in advance of my draft London Plan is an issue that affects not just gypsies and travellers but other issues as well.


Tom Copley AM:  Yes, of course. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We have to be a bit careful about retrospective changes.  The short answer is that the draft London Plan will have a comprehensive definition for ‘gypsies and travellers’ for boroughs to use when assessing need, very different from the definition that is currently set out in the National Planning Guidance.  My Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, James Murray, has alerted councils to this so that they cannot plead ignorance when it comes to changes they bring in when they know now ‑ it has been telegraphed ‑ what my intention is.  The reason why James Murray is telegraphing this is so if we do suggest to councils changes they have to make as a consequence as a draft London Plan, they cannot plead ignorance. 


Tom Copley AM:  That is very welcome to hear.  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.  It is very welcome that there will be a significant change in terms of the London Plan, but we also need to look at delivery through your London Plan and through your Housing Strategy.  How will you be working with other members of the GLA Group, local authorities, housing associations and developers to find innovative solutions ‑ through your Strategy, through your London Plan ‑ to ensure real and measurable increases in gypsy and traveller site provision?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One thing we can do which will make a tangible difference, I hope, is to provide funding through the Affordable Homes programme for new sites and improvements to existing ones.  I am hoping that will not only send a signal to the GLA family and the wider providers but also be of tangible assistance.  One of the things the Mayor does, and I do this all the time, is to say to the functional bodies, whether it is TfL, the MPS, the LFB or others, that we have to have continuity of policy in all the various areas, whatever part of the functional bodies it is, but it is much more than that and our ambition should be much more than that as well.  I am hoping that the combination of the draft London Plan, the availability of additional funding and also the message that I as the Mayor and the Deputy for Housing, James Murray, are sending is one that people take on board. 


Tom Copley AM:  It will take some leadership because of course the previous Mayor had a fund for pitches which was undersubscribed and we have not seen, in recent years, any new gypsy and traveller pitches being created.  We have only seen bids for funding for expansion.


Just finally though, can I ask you this?  Boroughs have drawn attention to the need for a pan‑London approach for things like temporary stopping sites, to try to help combat the problems of costly illegal encampments as well as supporting the gypsy and traveller communities in maintaining their traditional way of life.  Would you and your Deputy Mayors for Planning and for Social Inclusion meet with myself, borough representatives and the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit to discuss this further?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am very happy to.