We are Londoners too!
Gypsy and Traveller engagement in the Mayor's London Plan
Traveller children demonstating outside City Hall
Writing a letter to Boris
The 2004 Housing act required all regional authorities to include the provision of Travellers sites in their strategic plans and to set pitch targets for districts and Boroughs. In 2009, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, began to consult on a new London Plan and during the consultation process London's Gypsies and Travellers asserted their right to be heard and treated in the same way as any other Londoners in need of secure accommodation.
This website page tells the story of how Gypsies and Travellers have engaged in the Mayor's London Plan.
Engagement started in January 2009 with preliminary consultation before the Mayor's draft London Plan was published in October
The plan included policy 3.9 which specified Traveller pitch targets for each borough to provide before 2017. This followed a Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessment commissioned by the GLA and London Boroughs in 2008, which provided evidence of the need for 811 new pitches. The draft London Plan however gave a lower number of 538, and went out for public consultation in October 2009.
During the First round of consultation from October 2009 to January 2010
- We produced a leaflet for Gypsies and Travellers giving information about the London Plan and what they can do. Click to see the leaflet.
- We produced a post card for Gypsies and Travellers to sign and send back to the Mayor. This was the suggestion of a Traveller. Click here to see the post card and text.
- We held meetings and visited families living in Barking Dagenham, Bromley, Camden, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.
- We supported and encouraged Gypsies and Travellers living in houses, sites and unauthorised camps to sign postcards and write letters to the Mayor saying why more pitches are needed, why most Travellers can't live in houses. By January 2010 280 Gypsies and Travellers had written letters or signed postcards. Click here to see some examples of letters sent.
- We liaised with other agencies who supported Travellers or who were involved with the London Plan, through the London Gypsy and Traveller forum (LGTF). Click here to see LGTF responses.
- See LGTU's Responses to the London Plan to the first round of consultation by clicking here.
Children playing on a site
What did Gypsies and Travellers Say?
- 538 new pitches is not enough
- Young Travellers on sites have nowhere to go
- Travellers are forced into houses
March 2010 Minor Alteration reducing the pitch targets to 238 across London
In the ' minor' alteration the Mayor excluded the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in houses stating that priority should be given to those already living on sites. The number of new pitches for London was reduced to 238 - about a quarter of the original assessment of need. There was a further period of consultation. We organised more meetings to get feedback from the community on the Mayor's changes.
Feedback from the Community
Respect for our culture?
We produced another post card, click here to see the text, this time with some space for written comments. The quote by Viner Smith was from her letter to the Mayor explaining how Gypsies and Travellers feel about being forced to live in houses. More letters were also written and so by the end of the second consultation period nearly half of all the responses from the public on the London Plan were from Gypsies and Travellers.
What did Gypsies and Travellers Say?
- Boris has not listened to us
- We are not in houses by choice
- The prejudice we face is the starting point of everything
- We want respect for our culture
- Sites do not make us separate- we are still part of the community
July 2010 Announcement from Mayor on the second minor alteration
At the Travellers meeting in July 2010 we heard that the Mayor proposed to make a second minor alteration to the London Plan, and this was published later in September when the pitch targets were taken out the plan completely, and the Mayor said that it should be up to the boroughs to decide if new sites are needed. Gypsies and Travellers at the meeting decided that enough was enough! After all the post cards and letters that they sent to the Mayor he was still ignoring them. It was agreed to do more cards but everyone felt that it was now time to protest!
We produced a third post card to the Mayor for Gypsies and Travellers to send. Click here to see the postcard text.
Time to protest and preparing for the protest
The 11th October was the date that Gypsies and Travellers were to go before the planning inspector to give evidence, but because policy 3.9 (which included pitch targets) had been taken out of the plan Gypsies and Travellers could no longer go before the inspector and give evidence on this date. We decided to plan our protest for October 11th.
Preparing for the protest
We made placards..........
We thought of ways to get media attention..........
Making the model caravan..........
Monday 11th October 2010 Demonstration - Silent Protest, Rally and March down Tooley Street
Silent Protest in the public Gallery
Rally at City Hall
March down Tooley Street
Silent Protest in the public Gallery
About 80 Gypsies, Travellers and supporters stood in the public gallery in silent protest at the deletion of policy 3.9. Another part of the London Plan was being heard, but the planning inspector acknowledged the protest and allowed a statement to be read out followed by a minute's silence.
Rally at the City Hall
After the silent protest everyone took part in a rally outside the city hall. Gypsies and Traveller spoke along with London Assembly members John Biggs and Jennette Arnold, who came to support their Traveller constituents, and celebrate them as Londoners.
March Down Tooley Street
The march was a lively affair with a model caravan pulled by a Boris bike, a pony and trap, banners and placards and whole families there to add their voices to the message-'Travellers are Londoners'. We handed out leaflets, asked passersby to sign cards to the Mayor, and got a very positive response. The police officer acting as marshal said it was the best tempered march he had ever been on. Those who came, felt that whatever Boris did, it had been great to bring London Gypsies and Travellers together to raise their voices, and strengthened everybody's resolve not to give up.
Outside the EiP December 7th 2010
Helena giving evidence
Examination in Public (EiP) December 7th 2010
This EiP was postponed from October when the policy was changed. At it the government planning inspector asks questions about the evidence that the Mayor has provided to support the London Plan, and the evidence provided by organisations and Londoners which challenges the plan. The invited participants are those who have made written submissions. Thirteen organisations, the GLA Labour group, and four individual Travellers spoke in support of the Travellers position, that targets should be set. The Mayor's planning team, the GLA conservative group and four boroughs spoke for no targets. The session on the Travellers policy lasted eight hours and was very demanding. This was a unique occasion, as in other EiPs, there were far more voices speaking against Travellers than for, and was a triumph for all the efforts of Travellers over the past two years. The planning inspector's report will be made public in May.
The main points made by the Travellers were
- The plan should be based on the evidence of the Accommodation Needs Assessment.
- Provision of Traveller sites are a strategic matter for London in the same way as housing is, and needed Borough targets.
- All the evidence demonstrates that few Boroughs cannot be trusted to respond to the needs of their Traveller constituents without targets.
- Travellers living in housing must be included in the need for sites.
Lisa Smith, Tracie Giles, Helena Kiely, Christine Cawley, Marion Mahoney and Viner Smith all attended the examination in public.
Helena Kiely giving evidence at the EiP 7th December 2010.