Almost 3,000 caravans were counted on unauthorised sites across England this year – as campaigners fight to increase site provision for Gypsy and Traveller people. Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show that in January, 515 caravans were on land not owned by Travellers, and another 2,377 were on sites that they did own – but did not have planning permission for.
That is 32 more than were counted on all unauthorised sites during the same period in 2020. In total, including on authorised sites, there were 24,371 caravans reported on the count date of January 2022 – 658 (3%) more than there were counted in January 2020.
That increase has largely been driven by a rise in the number of private caravans with permanent planning permission, which resulted in an increase in authorised caravans despite a drop in the number of socially rented ones. Some 14,786 caravans were counted on authorised privately-run sites, a 6% increase from 13,983 in January 2020.
That more than offset the 3% fall in caravans on socially rented sites, from 6,870 in January 2020, to 6,693 at the latest count. Overall in January around one in eight caravans (12%) were on unauthorised land and 88% were on authorised sites.
It comes as the charity Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) launches the ‘Oak Project’, a partnership aimed at increasing site provision across England in line with the needs of Gypsy and Traveller people, funded by the Oak Foundation. The three-year partnership, which launched on June 16, seeks to improve understanding of planning policy on Traveller accommodation and how issues can be addressed; encourage the construction of more Traveller sites; and strengthen the ability of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to advocate for change in planning practice and policy.
Currently, FFT says, an unfavourable planning system and a “chronic lack of adequate site provision” means that around 10,000 people live on land without permission. It follows an FFT report released last year that found at least 1,696 households were on waiting lists for pitches on Traveller sites in England, with only 101 pitches available nationwide (permanent and transit).
Speaking about the partnership, Michelle Gavin, FFT’s business development manager, said: “The Oak Project presents an excellent opportunity to bring key stakeholders to the table, and bridge the gap between Gypsy, Roma, Traveller civil society and housing providers.
“Thanks to the Oak Foundation, this three-year partnership will help improve the supply and access to affordable homes for Gypsy and Travellers families.”
Boris Worrall, Rooftop Group chief executive and chair of the National Policy Advisory Panel on Gypsy and Traveller Housing said: “There is a huge shortage of social housing for Gypsy and Traveller communities and the Oak Project represents a unique opportunity to build on progress in recent years to get more councils and housing associations involved in providing high-quality homes for Romany Gypsy and Irish Traveller people and families.
“Everyone needs a safe, secure, and sustainable place to call home and this partnership will provide the support, advice, and encouragement to meet the challenge ahead.”