Environmental racism, segregation and discrimination: Gypsy and Traveller sites in Great Britain

This helpful paper and timely paper reflects on how some residential sites occupied by Gypsies and Travellers tend to be located in often unpleasant and sometimes hazardous places. The study specifically considers residential sites owned/managed by local authorities and included case studies and interviews with residents.

The article majors on the concept of ‘environmental racism’ . It rightly points out that many local authority sites are located in often unpleasant and sometimes hazardous places, for instance in proximity to household waste centres and incinerators. Quality of life can also be inhibited by poor quality utility blocks or ‘sheds’. These can include bathroom and cooking facilities but often run-down with mouldy walls.

The paper also reflects on health inequalities, and that Gypsies and Travellers can be perceived as ‘outliers’ in society. The study painted a picture of the multiple challenge facing Gypsies and Travellers living on local authority sites, living on the margins away from settled communities and contending with the health effects of industry and pollution which is an outworking on environmental racism. This is the sad legacy of inappropriate sites being developed to meet the needs of Gypsies and Travellers.

There are a very small number of transit sites across the county as reflected in the article. To help meet the need for transit provision, councils are increasingly adopting negotiated stopping policies which were initially developed by LeedsGATE and not necessarily developing new transit sites.

One observation from the study is that it implies there are only 291 permanent and 60 transit sites in England, Scotland and Wales. This is the number of sites specifically owned and/or managed by local authorities and there are a much larger number of private sites. The latest government caravan count data reports that only 26% of caravans were on public sites, with the rest on private sites (60% are on private sites with planning permission and 14% on sites that do not have planning permission according to the latest July 2023 caravan count data). It is suggested that the exploration of themes in this paper are expanded to include a review of privates sites, on which the vast majority of Gypsies and Travellers live, to further test the impact of environmental racism. This will help to positively inform future planning decisions relating to site development and help redress some of the poor site location decisions which has led to many households experiencing appalling residential conditions in 21st century Britain.

Read the full report here