Earlier in the year the City of York Council asked for final responses to the Local Plan. The Local Plan sets the vision for planning and accommodation needs for the coming decades. In August 2015 the planning guidance changed the definition of Gypsy / Traveller to remove the idea of a cultural identity, ‘persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism or living in a caravan’. Since the new policy came into effect, this has meant that to be recognised as a Gypsy or a Traveller for planning purposes you have to show you are only temporarily settled. The local implications of that is that the projected need for new Gypsy and Traveller pitches has dropped: how can York ensure it is properly planning for the future of one of the city’s most significant communities?.
Carrieanne: In 10 year’s time we’ll all be in houses, the Council’s trying to get rid of the sites. Younger generations will have no more option. If there were more sites available, they would be on them.
Denise: We need another 50 pitches, at least, because there are people who are in houses because there is nowhere else and people who have double up on space. It causes a lot of depression when people end up in houses, they feel isolated. Once you shut the door you see no one. On a site people are popping in all the time. If they are off to the shop, they’ll pop in and see you. In houses, you don’t see nobody. It’s a lonely life when you go into a house.
Lorraine: If we did agree to move into houses, they’d only offer one or two houses and not a whole street because they don’t understand the kind of community we are. When Travellers buy a house they still have all their relatives pulled up behind them because we have to have our own around us.
Kally: My daughter might want a slab on James Street, but I know she won’t be getting one. The council haven’t planned for this.
Lorraine: Gypsy is our culture. A lot of them are coming to realise that calling us Travellers [as in the planning policy] is our undoing. Some will want to live our way of live. Some will move into houses. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t Gypsy people. You can breed it out but you can’t take it out. That’s where you are coming from, that’s your heritage. Whoever is deciding this thing, that you have to travel in order to be a Gypsy, shows to me that the term Traveller should be dropped, we should clam our cultural identity and call ourselves Gypsies.
Christine: Since they changed the definition of Gypsy Traveller, it’s gone from 66 to 3 pitches [under planning guidance]. But people are in a Catch 22. To get housing benefit, you can’t be away for more than six weeks but you have to be away for eight weeks to be counted as a Traveller.
Lorraine: The way we still want to be able to live is simply to live the way all everyone lived 40-50 years ago. They had street parties and they were in and out of each other’s houses. It’s your society that’s lost this way of living, not us. If you go to other countries, normal people in other country they have a community, our English society has lost that. Here everyone’s an island, they don’t even bother with their own. Mainstream society should be taking a leaf out of our book.
The final version of the Local Plan raised a number of issues for York’s Gypsy and Traveller Community and York Traveller’s Trust have been addressing the issues with the City of York Council. With the changes in planning guidance, the number of pitches went from 66 to 3. York Traveller’s Trust believes from their research that this is an underestimate and will be advising a revised figure. The Trust welcomes that City of York has also used equalities legislation to identify an addition 44 pitches. The delivery of these 44 pitches is linked to developer duty based on scale of housing development, as is noted in the final version of the Local Plan. To make this a viable strategy York Traveller’s Trust believes the City of York Council must identify land for future pitches. We will be continuing this conversation as part of the wider public discussion through My York Central.