SoS Pickles has decreed that Gypsy and Traveller people will, in the very near future, have to prove that they ‘travel’ for two months every year in order to qualify to own or occupy a ‘traveller pitch’ (lower case t courtesy of CLG).
Okay Mr Pickles that really stings. We know your feelings were hurt when the court identified that that you had discriminated against people according to their race and denied them timely justice. But really? Do so many communities in the UK need to experience an increase in un-authorised encampments, made up of people having to prove that they really, really are a Gypsy (oops sorry, I mean traveller) in order to qualify for Mr Pickles dubious beneficence?
According to Mr Pickles’ new definition most of the people currently living, in relative contentment, on Gypsy sites (publicly or privately owned) may not qualify to be there unless they demonstrate spending two months of the year being nomadic according to Mr Pickles bucolic definition of their own culture. If you can’t imagine that any local authority might actually enforce this against existing site occupants just take a look at recent coverage of Cllr Birtwistle’s comments in Burnley.
So what is likely to happen? In the very least the roadsides will fill with people having to prove that they are ‘travellers’. It’s going to be very expensive for the ordinary householder. The obvious costs are in ‘eviction and clean – up’ costs routinely declared by local authorities who are unpractised at effectively managing ‘nomadism’, the very nomadism that Mr Pickles is due to declare is pre-requisite for wanting to live, traditionally, among your family, in mobile structures. Less obvious and measurable, but costs no less, are in conflict between neighbours, increased stress, call centres responding to complaints, police cars doing ‘drive by-s’, reduced access to early intervention healthcare, reduced opportunities for adequate education, reduced contributions to local associations and community life….