A great day at this historic event which took place in Parliament Square, on Saturday 21st May, was attended by around 200 people. Brilliant speakers, excellent organisation and at the end a petition was presented at 10 Downing Street. The rally was a protest against the new Housing Act which redefines Gypsies and Travellers for the purposes of planning law. Gypsy and Traveller rights, culture and equality are all under threat. ACERT was well represented by our Chair and other members.
A petition was handed in to 10 Downing Street.
Gypsies and Travellers from all over the UK will be holding a rally on Parliament Square on Saturday 21st May to challenge new housing and planning laws that both redefine our ethnic identity and that seek to deny us a culturally appropriate home, and to make a stand for Gypsy and Traveller pride and empowerment and against racism and prejudice.
The rally, called ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’*, will begin at 12 noon in Parliament Square, concluding with four organizers handing in a signed petition with over 5000 signatures into Downing street at 4pm.
The petition, created by the march organizers and hosted by 38 degrees, protests against new planning laws that are being introduced that redefine “gypsy status” to only classify those of us who ‘travel’ for work purposes, removing any cultural or ethnic dimension.
The new laws will also effectively end the slow but steady increase in private Traveller site developments in the face of a dire national shortage of pitches for Gypsies and Travellers.
This demonstration is lead and organized by Gypsy and Travellers with support from many of the Gypsy and Traveller NGO’s, who say they will also be sending delegates to the rally.
A spokesperson for the march organizers said:
“These new laws will will limit the development of new Gypsy and Traveller sites and potentially threaten those of us living on existing public or private legal Traveller sites”.
“Many of us will be forced back into the road either because we will be made homeless, or in order to ‘prove’ our ethnic identity and heritage to retain our homes”.
“The rally is a people’s march welcome to all of those who support our cause, with community speakers, singers and should be a fun day out for all the family.”
For more information and travel details, you can check the rally’s facebook page.
A campaign is growing to challenge the change in planning regulations which changes the planning definition of Traveller to those who have a nomadic habit of life. Those who have permanently ceased to travel, to get their children educated, due to old age and ill-health, will lose the right to be considered as travellers.
ACERT encourages its members to sign the online petition and attend the national demonstration on 21st May 2016.
The petition was launched after a meeting between HertsGATE, The Gypsy Council, The Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association and former UK Association of Gypsy Women campaigner Shay Clipson at the Traveller Movement office on the Holloway Road in London.
The government “believes it is fair that if someone has given up travelling permanently then applications for planning permission should be considered as they are for the settled community within national planning policy rather than Planning Policy for Traveller Sites.”
Families who have been forced into housing due to lack of appropriate provision and even the generation of young Travellers who have grown up on official sites, will be unable to claim pitches on sites or apply for planning permission for private site developments. While Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are still recognised under Equalities legislation, the change in the planning definition reminds us of the frequently heard denial of identity, “How can they be Travellers if they don’t travel.”
Last year, the Planning Officers Society (POS) raised concerns over the government’s plan in its response to the consultation on the proposals, warning the move could have unintended consequences.
This proposal is going to be very challenging to implement and assess at application or appeal stage,” the POS consultation response said. “A lot of local authority and inspectors’ time is going to be taken up debating whether a family are still travelling and therefore entitled to a pitch.”