• To use or not to use enough water in Travellers’ sites? What does the new planning framework do about water uses and misconceptions?

      Tracada, Eleni; University of Derby (2016-07)
      During the last few years the author had the opportunity to work in partnership with international researchers in order to investigate on case law issues often affecting negatively the outcome of planning applications for Gypsy and Traveller sites in the UK and other European countries. These research activities took place during a two-year European funded project with the title Wor(l)ds which Exclude (WE). The author and her team in the UK had carried out visits to various sites; reports and recommendations have been written in relation to the latest developments in the planning framework which also regulates the construction of pitches for Gypsy and Traveller users in its special supplement. Some changes emerged after Law Court hearings and relevant decisions referring to accommodation arrangements for Gypsy and Traveller Communities. Although these arrangements were often established after consultation between local authorities and communities involved, rejections of planning applications were often based upon strong disagreements amongst members of local communities and neighborhoods in proximity of proposed new pitches. According to Gypsy and Traveller culture toilets, showers and kitchens should not be integral parts of their mobile homes and caravans; all these facilities should be grouped mainly in blocks of facilities (or blocks of facility rooms) according to the size of the site. Because of certain local petitions though opposing the size and view of caravans and facilities inside the pitches, the facilities’ blocks do not provide enough space and equipment for water uses and drainage. The researchers had the opportunity to visit some sites providing facilities and accommodation and interviewed the inhabitants of the sites. It was also found that often rejections of extensions to planning applications of previously approved temporary sites for Gypsy and Traveller people, when challenged to the law courts, were hardly successful mainly because of planning inspectors and local residents’ preconceptions on these groups’ unsanitariness (not enough use of water) or, strange enough, because of overflows and waste of water during so-called extremely dirty works, such as recycling processes in pitches. In reality, the European Law Courts often found that rejections occurred because of local communities’ misconception on water uses in services attached to the accommodation pitches. The main question should be what the title of this paper is asking, so that the groups interested could get swift and competent answers. The research findings in the UK were compared with solutions and findings in other partner European countries participating in the WE project and an interactive website was created for ongoing discussions and dissemination of best practice activities and projects.