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Fears that law could compound discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers

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A leading civil liberties group has backed calls to amend a piece of legislation which is currently working its way through Parliament, amid fears that it could have a detrimental effect on Gypsies and Travellers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is calling for the wording of the Housing and Planning Bill to be altered, following concerns that the law will remove the duty of councils to assess the accommodation needs of the travelling community.

The amendment has also received the support of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

This has been a legal requirement for local authorities for more than a decade and there are real concerns about the likely consequences if it is scrapped.

An EHRC spokesman said: “We recognise the difficult balance local authorities must strike in ensuring appropriate site provision for Traveller communities and managing the impact on local residents, but our research shows the most frequently cited barrier to the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites is objections from councillors and local residents.

“Without a statutory requirement on local authorities to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers, we are concerned that these communities will continue to experience severe discrimination and hardship.”

Research by the EHRC has found that homelessness among Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans is currently estimated to stand at about 20 per cent.

In addition, the group is among the most disadvantaged communities in England, Wales and Scotland, with the provision of appropriate accommodation seen as central to addressing the wider inequalities that they experience.

At Lester Morrill, our solicitors are highly experienced in working with the Roma and Gypsy Traveller community and have acted in a number of high profile cases across the country, including Dale Farm and Meriden. To find out more about how our Public Law team can assist you, please contact us today.

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