Advocacy and Campaigns
Along with working directly with members of the GTC, at York Travellers Trust we are committed to ending discrimination and campaigning to empower the GTC on a local and national level. Here you can find more information on the work we are doing to reduce inequality and fight discrimination.
Our response to York City Council's local plan provision for Traveller sites
Despite self-declaring themselves as a Human Rights City and considering becoming an Anti-Racist and Inclusive City, we cannot comprehend York City's Council's lack of engagement with York Travellers Trust to ensure that the rights to the GTC are considered in their Local Plan.
Find below a full written statement from York Travellers Trust and a video statement from our Chair of Trustees, Caroline Hunter.
Local Plan Provision for Traveller Sites; Document EX/CYC/121a
Many thanks for the opportunity to speak at the Local Plan Working Group meeting on Monday 16th January. As you will have gathered, YTT has reached a point of extreme frustration and disheartenment in regard to the progress of the Local Plan for Gypsies and Travellers in the City. Not least among contributory factors to this strength of feeling is our profound disappointment in the failure of the Council to properly engage with YTT at any stage in this process to work collaboratively towards achieving sustainable solutions to the crises that continues to unfold in Traveller Site provision in the City. This is despite the Inspectors twice asking the Council Planners to meet with YTT.
I was sorry not to have been able to meet with you personally after the meeting, although I know my colleague Stephen Pittam did so. I am writing to you now to give more detail on the background of our experience and position at YTT, and expand on some of the concerns that I raised. I hope to be able to provide further detailed reasoning and thought from early next week, and some reason for hope amongst developers and members of the Council who have managerial responsibilities which will be shaped for decades to come by the decisions that are made in the coming weeks and months.
As was emphasised by Mr Ferris on Monday evening, the failure to plan for Travellers in the city as part of truly multi-cultural and inclusive communities is an unjustifiable abdication of moral responsibility. However, it is clear from the plans to provide 13 more pitches on one of the most deprived Council Traveller Sites in the country that the Council plans to do exactly that. The idea that the enormous problems that will inevitably result from the near doubling of the size of the site at Osbaldwick can properly be justified or explained away as ‘managerial issues’ for the Housing department is frankly, outrageous.
I put it to you that the Council’s responsibility for providing appropriate Traveller Sites where citizens of the city can live in safety and dignity and access the same services and facilities as their settled neighbours is not only moral, but legal, and that it falls squarely on your shoulders, and of those of the Local Plan Working Group and the planning department of the Council. By Mr Ferris’s own reasoning, the plan manifestly fails to treat Travellers with dignity and respect by explicitly planning to exclude them from the inclusive and multi-cultural modern communities of the City in the future, accommodating them instead on the edge of an industrial estate, in a community that has already experienced appalling social exclusion and deprivation over generations.
I note the statement at Paragraph 5.42 of the December 2022 Document (EX/CYC/121a) that the suitability of sites not allocated for Gypsies and Travellers in this Local Plan will be assessed against the locational principles within criteria I-iv of policy H5. There is no indication that the new pitches that have been proposed at the site at Osbaldwick, have ever been properly assessed against this criteria. We are not aware of any meaningful consultation that has been carried out amongst existing residents of the Site, or the Housing team responsible for managing it. We have particular reservations about the ability of the proposals to meet the essential criteria at paragraphs ii and iv of the policy, and the additional criteria at paragraphs vii; viii; ix and x. We also note that the need to take account of providing space for equine grazing at Traveller sites referenced at paragraph 5.40; a much needed facility in the city of York and the source of significant inter-community conflict is not addressed or discussed in the proposals.
In their current form, the s106 Obligations contained in the Plan are unenforceable. Whilst the Council has clearly acknowledged that it must be assumed that new pitches required to meet the assessed need for the first 5 years of the Plan period will be provided via commuted sum payments already agreed with developers and delivered at exiting Council Sites as discussed above; assurances have been made by Counsellor Ayre and Laura Bartle that policy H5(b) has been strengthened to ensure that future pitches will be delivered on strategic sites. This is based on the imposition of ‘as high a bar as possible’ on developers to meet the s106 obligations that are set for the provision of Traveller sites on the strategic sites themselves.
It is not clear upon what basis this assumption can possibly be justified. Regulation 122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 Statutory Instrument 210/948 makes it unlawful for any planning obligation to be taken into account as a reason for granting planning permission if it does not meet the three tests set out in the Regulation|. That it is:
Necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms;
Directly related to the development; and
Fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.
Paragraph 75 of Appeal Decision APP/C2741/W/19/3227359 provides the most robust and objective analysis of Policy H5(b) available. The assessment of Inspector Wright in this case confirms that the policy meets none of the three tests set out above. The Council’s assurances that it has set as ‘high a bar as possible’ are meaningless in the context of a legislative framework that ostensibly confers no power on the Planning Authority to set any bar of this nature at all. In the context of a severe shortage of housing in the city for the Citizens of York, the suggestion that Planning Officers could block the development of major strategic sites for the sake of tiny numbers of Traveller Pitches, and will have an ’extremely hard time’ making recommendations for the approval of proposals that fail to meet this criteria’ is simply absurd. Planning Officers will have no legal power to do otherwise. The four applications for Strategic Sites that have been decided or negotiated to date provide conclusive evidence of this fact.
York Travellers Trust are prepared to do everything in our power to assist the Council and Local developers in navigating this complex issue and provide socially and environmentally sustainable homes of a high standard for the Travelling Communities of our city. We would urge you now at this 11th hour to work closely with us and other interested parties to do so. As I indicated on Monday evening, we have amongst us decades of personal and professional experience in this field, and are well equipped to help to manifest real sustainable solutions. We have liaised with some of the Developers and Agents responsible for bringing forward strategic sites since the meeting on Monday, and are confident that we will find valuable support here towards achieving our objectives, whilst helping to solve some of the problems that Policy H5 presents for these groups.
By the same token, should the Council choose to continue to fail to engage positively with us, we will do everything in our power to ensure that York City Council is not allowed to go ahead with a plan that will subject the communities we support to generations of hardship and social exclusion. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has supported YTT to engage with the Local Plan in York, and the Commission's Legal Department has arranged to meet with us in a week's time to explore the current situation. We will not hesitate to bring all available legal, community and professional resources to bear on this issue should we find it necessary to pursue this in opposition to the Council.
I want to emphasise in the strongest terms that our objective and motivation in this issue is in ensuring that the Gypsy and Traveller communities of this city have access to safe, sustainable homes from which they can access the same social and educational opportunities as all other citizens. Please be in no doubt. Whichever of the routes above we need to take to achieve this, we are not prepared to desist in this task.
York Travellers Trust.