Hackney’s London Assembly representative accuses Boris of treating Gypsies and Travellers unfairly

Hackney’s London Assembly representative believes London’s Mayor has breached human rights in his treatment of Gypsies and Travellers, and is reporting him to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Jennette Arnold thinks Boris Johnson has breached legislation, by removing targets for London councils to build new pitches for the travelling community.

Ms Arnold is working on a dossier she will submit to the EHRC, the independent statutory body established to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality and protect human rights.

The Mayor’s London Plan, a 25-year scheme for housing, planning, the environment and transport, is going through a public inquiry and Evidence in Public (EiP) was heard from the travelling community last Tuesday. (December 7)

Recommendations to build 808 new pitches for Gypsies and Travellers in London were included in its first draft, but in May the figure was lowered to 238 – and in September it was scrapped altogether.

In Hackney the original recommendation was for an extra 19 pitches, on top of the borough’s 27 existing official pitches.

The figure was cut to seven in May, until Mr Johnson decided local authorities could make their own minds up whether or not to build new pitches.

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Ms Arnold said: “They went as far officers as carrying out an impact assessment and the next step is you are required to put mitigation in - this is what has been taken out.

“Gypsies and Travellers are a racial group under the racial equality act, they have legislative legitimacy, and the mayor has a duty and must have due regard to their need.

“As a health visitor 20 years ago in the West Midlands I worked with this community, so I know how they are treated, how they are persecuted and how their cultural requirement is not for any of us to go and negotiate.”

More Gypsies and Travellers in the UK live in bricks and mortar nowadays than in caravans, which they say affects them adversely.

Irish Traveller Christine Cawley, from Brackenfield Close, Lower Clapton, spoke at Monday’s EiP, explaining that she is 26th on Hackney’s waiting list for a pitch, but how she doesn’t expect to get one in her lifetime.

A spokeswoman for Boris Johnson said he had taken full account of planning and equalities legislation to ensure he had complied with all legal duties.