Monday, 19 September 2011

The (Planning) Law is an Ass

Today as I write this, 86 families on a converted scrap yard in Essex are waiting for the bailiffs to make them homeless.

They have been living on the self-contained site for up to 10 years and own the land their homes are built on, but because some of them don’t have planning permission, they are going to be forcefully ejected and their homes demolished when the bulldozers do their worst.

Those expressing grave concern about the evictions include Bishops, The Children’s Society,  and a United Nations representative who has claimed that the eviction breaks international law.

All this at the same time as the government constantly wrings its hands about the lack of affordable homes, lack of investment, and is itself changing planning law to enable big developers to access new green-field sites with much greater ease.

Is it just me, or is there a stark contradiction here?

One the one hand we have  government at every level trying, but failing year on year, to solve our housing crisis.  On the other, we have 86 Traveller families who have erected their homes at no cost to the tax-payer, being thrown out (at great cost to the tax payer) and their homes torn down.

But perhaps there is the rub – they are Travellers.  Having lived in both inner-city London, and rural middle-England, I have noticed that while it is increasing unacceptable to be racist in general, there is still one group who are routinely vilified with impunity – Travellers.

Until we learn that you can’t pick and choose which prejudices are acceptable and which are not, there will continue to be people and authorities who make an ass of themselves and the law.

In the meantime, my heart goes out to the families of Dale Farm, and I pray that the God of justice and compassion will hear their cry.

Further reading:


  1. While I feel for the travellers involved, damned if they do ( get a site) damned if they don't. It is true that planning regulations apply to everyone. The planning departments are a law unto themselves, every resubmission with required changes cost another hefty fee. I think the planning department should be abolished for ordinary people on their own land.

  2. I know what you mean Islelassie, and have witnessed the inconsistancy of planning departments at first hand. I remember when I was in an area of Bermondey (London) which was becoming fashionable, hugh developers regularly bullied the Local Authority into retrospective planning permissions becuase they had huge legal departments who could threaten the council with costly legal actions. Ordinary people, on the other hand, were required to follow every letter of the law (and beyond) for the most minor changes.

    While planning regulations apply to everyone, the enforcement and interpretation of those regulations is by no means fair and equal - hence the possibility that prejudice can influence decisions.

  3. Go and buy a house that backs on to a travellers' site and live there for a year and then we'll see how sympathetic you are to their 'plight'. Many of these families have homes in Ireland - I assure you they have - and (as with half the site) they could have applied for planning permission but saw themselves as above the law – as Jesus says ‘he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword...’ It would be interesting to hear what Vanessa Redgrave would have to say about the travellers if she had to live cheek by jowl with them. Ship ‘em up and move ‘em out! And to hell with woolly sentiments from people sitting in their nice vicarages who don’t have to deal with these ‘travellers’.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for putting the opposing view so clearly. Do you live next to a traveller site, or are you just being poetic?
    The 'nice vicarages' I have lived in include a housing association property on a high rise estate in Woolwich, a council house in Peckham next to the infamous North Peckham Estates, and (my earliest memory) an old run down house surrounded by 200 yards of rubble in every direction in a Manchester slum clearance area.
    I have met many travellers in my time and have found that (just like everyone else) there are some good ones and some bad ones. Prejudice, however, condemns everyone on the basis of a preconceived idea.
    Perhaps you should consider your own preconceived ideas a little more?