Gypsy Traveller Accommodation
Key Facts for Somerset:
The 2011 Census identified 733 residents who described their ethnic group as Gypsy or Irish Traveller
The age profile is much younger than the county population as a whole; one in three are aged under 16 and almost half (46%) are under 25
37% of those aged 16 or more are employed or self-employed, compared with 58% for the whole population
As in the UK generally, the Gypsy and Traveller community in Somerset experiences notable health inequalities. One in six adults were long-term sick or disabled (2011 Census) and 15% described themselves as in bad or very bad health, compared with 5% of all adults in Somerset. Detail of a Department of Health funded project aimed at addressing inqualities is available here
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have much lower levels of educational attainment and attendance rates than children generally (see Schools section
The Gypsy and Traveller resident population are twice as likely as the wider population to live in social or private rented accommodation (58% and 29%, respectively)
According to the DCLG count in July 2016, there were 542 Gypsy and traveller caravans in Somerset. This was 8 more than the year before and 18 fewer than the peak in January 2016. More than half of the caravans are in Mendip District (see table below).
There remains a considerable challenge to meet the additional permanent and transit pitches required in the coming years
Gypsy Traveller community profile
More information on those who in the Census described their ethnicity as Gypsy or Irish Traveller can be found in the Ethnicity Profile on our Equality and Diversity webpage. This includes the age profile and the areas where they are more likely to live in Somerset.
Traveller Caravan Count
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes a count of traveller caravans for each local authority twice a year. Recent trends are shown in the table below.
| Jan 2014
| Jul 2014
| Jan 2015
| Jul 2015
| Jan 2016
| Jul 2016
Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment
In 2010, a project team led by De Montfort University prepared a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) for Somerset.
157 surveys were achieved throughout the period of research and information from these were used in combination with other desk-top research and information provided by the client councils to inform the calculation of pitches required between 2010 and 2015 (and an estimate up to 2020). A transit pitch requirement and a Showmen's yard requirement were also calculated.
A Somerset GTAA update, commissioned jointly by the District councils, was published in October 2013.
This update report sets out a current estimation of the Gypsy and Traveller population in Somerset, along with discussion on waiting lists on site, management of the sites in Somerset, progress of delivery against stated need in the 2010 GTAA and ideas from telephone interviews, meetings and site visits on future management and delivery. A summary of the findings is set out below.
Demand for Pitches
The need for sites for the period of 2010-2015 are broken down by District as follows:-
| South Somerset
||Excess of 2
| Taunton Deane
| West Somerset
Meeting the Demand: Main Challenges
Despite the sites provided since 2010, it remains a challenge for the District Councils to provide sufficient sites to meet the demand. The main challenges are:
- Lack of suitable land that is feasible - near to transport, schools and shops including access for emergency services.
- Management of sites to ensure they are kept viable, accessible and safe and incidents of anti-social behaviour and vandalism are controlled
- Lack of understanding of the different cultural needs.
Risks of NOT Meeting the Demand
The lack of sites creates a plethora of risks, inclusive of risks on existing sites. For example:
- The lack of security for unauthorised encampments could cause unnecessary stress and anxiety that might lead to unnecessary depression.
- The eviction of young families due to their inability to source alternative pitches causes them to move back to live with parents which creates an overcrowded household. Such evictions create barriers to crucial family support ties that could exacerbate physical and mental health effects.
- The instances of injuries or illnesses associated with poorly maintained sites such as paths, lights, fire hazards and damp.
- The limited access to health services such as the lack of on-site medical treatment, dental needs, screening and immunisation programmes, including the dangers of practices such as sharing prescription medication that are detrimental to overall health and wellbeing.
- The instances of discrimination and bullying at school which can have damaging long-term health and wellbeing effects such as serious developmental damage.
- The detrimental impact of living in a house and its effect on nerves and depression amongst Travellers.
- The lack of accommodation and facilities are a barrier to career and educational attainment for young people.
Options for Meeting the Demand
Accordingly, District Councils will continue to work towards site delivery. The options are listed below:
- The need for greater sharing of information on potential sites and ideas for delivery by Local Planning Authorities and public agencies in Somerset
- Consideration of unofficial sites and traditional stopping places as potential sites.
- The use of Community Land Trust schemes for New Travellers that allows a local community to acquire and manage the land to further social, economic and environmental interests that will provide a benefit and safeguard assets important to the local community.
- The use of Commons Sharing for New Travellers that is a very informal approach to sharing common resources such as community commons in villages and wooded areas.
- The use of Group Housing that are chalet style properties, grouped together around communal facilities such as paddocks.
Reducing the Risks
It remains a challenge for Districts to reduce the risks for existing and new sites. The many methods expounded by the GTAA are:
- The use of a mobile unit, preventative health education programmes, community health advocates/ specialist health staff to restore trust, including seeking to better understand the Health & Wellbeing needs of Male Gypsies & Travellers through Priddy Fair and other local gatherings.
- Better liaison of the Somerset Traveller Education Service with local colleges and schools to ascertain educational and developmental support that are needed and can be provided.
- The provision of advice and support on further education and training to be provided by agencies like Connexions to help guide young Travellers towards the support and training needed to fulfil career aspirations.
- The provision of high quality cultural awareness training for front line staff.
- To ensure clearly defined information sources are available, and access to well respected and networked community health advocates/ liaison officers embedded within local areas.
- The continual dissemination of information about unsafe medical practices and detriments of inadequate access to medical and dental services.
- The need for the Somerset Travellers Education Service to cooperate with the Children’s Society and young travellers in Somerset to disseminate awareness though school curriculum and cultural heritage events of the importance of the Gypsy & Traveller way of life to tackle the effects of discrimination and bullying.