Statement from The Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma

published on 20 May 2016

The Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma notes with concern the distress caused to Gypsy and Traveller communities by the new Planning Policy for Traveller sites issued in August 2015.

As Churches we have a responsibility to affirm, welcome and celebrate the many diverse ethnicities and cultures and challenge all forms of social exclusion and marginalisation, and we share the concern of Gypsies and Travellers about the impact this policy will have on their lives.

Of all the guidance in the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites, the part that has caused greatest anxiety is the definition of Gypsies and Travellers which effectively removes Gypsy or Traveller status for people who have settled permanently. This denies to people in “bricks and mortar” (houses) the aspiration to live within the customs of their culture.  To people on private or council-run Traveller sites it raises great fears about the security of their tenure.  In particular, people with temporary planning permission for a Traveller site are understandably fearful that their home will cease to attract planning permission when the period of the temporary permission has expired, and that they will then face eviction.

Travellers have seen this measure in the context of other guidance and legislation which has impacted on their way of life, and have expressed deep concern that there appears to be a government agenda of forced assimilation which would result in the loss of their culture and identity. That is why the demonstrators on Saturday will meet under the theme of “Dosta Grinta” – “Enough is Enough”.

Yogi Sutton, Catholic Association for Racial Justice
Richard Sutton Catholic Association for Racial Justice
Dr Elizabeth Henry, Council for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns
Revd. Wale Hudson-Roberts, Racial Justice Advisor, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Lieutenant-Colonel Melvin Fincham, The Salvation Army United Kingdom & Republic of Ireland

The Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma is a group of and for Christians of all denominations and for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma themselves.  Its primary aim is to work for harmony, understanding and co-operation between communities, churches and Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people.