Enforcement action could be taken against non-traveller families living on gypsy sites in Kettering

Non traveller families taking up authorised gypsy pitches is an issue in the borough

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 12:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 12:38 pm
Some non-travellers are taking up pitches allocated for travellers.

Enforcement action could be taken against non-traveller families who are living on gypsy sites in Kettering.

A gypsy and traveller accommodation assessment (GTAA) commissioned by Kettering Council has found that more than a quarter of the authorised pitches for travellers are being lived on by non-traveller families in static homes.

The borough has 76 authorised pitches – with another 18 given consent for -however the survey published in March 2019 found 21 of the pitches were being occupied by non travellers.

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This has led to less available space for travellers when they come to the borough and is a factor in the number of unauthorised camps that have been set up in recent months.

For planning purposes councils use a legal definition of gypsy and traveller which is ‘persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such.’

At the executive council meeting last night (September 15) Kettering Council’s planning manager James Wilson said the authority is considering moving non-traveller families off the site.

He said: “Further work is to be carried out by ORS, the consultants who authored the GTAA and the planning service and housing dept to understand the status of these families and whether enforcement action or evictions are necessary. This is a major piece of work, but the scale of use of pitches by other non gypsy and traveller families calls into question whether these can be freed up for gypsy and travellers families in need.”

The report said: “Through the GTAA household interview process it was identified that approximately 21 of the current consented pitches for Gypsy and Traveller use were occupied by non-Gypsy and Traveller families. This would be a breach of the planning consents which have been issued and is providing housing for individuals and families which would more appropriately be accommodated through social housing options which the council is able to offer and provide. This use of the pitches is also creating a false picture in respect of the supply and demand of pitches within the borough and will impact on the council’s 5-year supply of pitches.”

It is not stated why the non-traveller families are living on the travellers sites, however there are long waiting lists for social housing across the county and the number of homeless households has risen rapidly in recent years due to rising private rents.

All councils need to have a five-year supply of traveller sites available to them, and since 2017 Conservative-run Kettering Council has not been able to defend unauthorised traveller sites that have set up because it has not been able to demonstrate the supply.

It also does not have a traveller policy and will not have completed one by the time it is disbanded in April next year to make way for the new unitary.

Also at the meeting the executive agreed to move forward with a plan to compulsory purchase a field off Stoke Albany Road in Desborough from Fred Smith. The land has planning permission for a ten-pitch traveller site, but a decade after permission was given the site has not come to fruition and Mr Smith is now refusing to sell the land to the authority.

At the meeting last night the council’s head of development Jonathan Waterworth said he hoped a voluntary agreement to sell would still be possible. However executive director Lisa Hyde said the authority was ‘serious about going forward with this work’.

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