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Orders of the Day — Land Compensation Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1972.

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Photo of Mr Donald Coleman Mr Donald Coleman , Neath 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

I hope that the Minister or the Secretary of State for Wales, who knows a great deal about this problem I have been talking about, will see if there is some way in which help can be given to people such as my constituents.

I turn to another omission from the Bill which I would represent to the Minister as the cause of considerable injustice to a large number of our fellow citizens. The group I am referring to are the travelling showmen who conduct travelling fairs throughout England, Wales and Scotland. There are some 4,000 travelling showmen. With their families that means that there are between 12,000 and 15,000 persons whose accommodation could be affected. Their homes are their caravans. Because of their business it is impracticable for them to live in houses. These people, however, must have winter quarter sites for their caravans, when they are not travelling during the winter months. This need has been recognised in Schedule 1 to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, by which exemption was given for such sites from site licensing. Such sites as those used by showmen for winter quarters are usually situated on the outskirts of towns. That enables the showmen and their families to have such facilities as shops and schools near at hand.

Such land, however, is especially vulnerable to compulsory purchase orders for housing and for roads. The difficulties which showmen have in obtaining land for winter quarters when they face the problem of their sites being taken over for public works are formidable and are ever increasing. Apart from shortage of land, local authorities are reluctant to grant planning permission for use of the land for caravan sites. Representations on this point have frequently been made to the Department. Existing winter quarter sites are frequently owned by showmen, and many have been for a generation or more. In other cases they are rented, but it is ownership alone of the site which gives a showman and his family security. In four areas the Showmen's Guild, which is representative of the showmen of this country, itself owns or leases sites for its members, and there is an instance of one of these sites in the north of England have recently been the subject of a compulsory purchase order for a new trunk road.

I would ask the Minister if he would look again at Clause 31 of the Bill which deals with the duty of local authorities to rehouse those who have been displaced from their dwellings where suitable accommodation is not available. It is only common justice which showmen and their families have a right to in respect of their winter quarter sites that they should be treated as other residential occupiers who are displaced from their dwellings. At present the only assistance which the Department can give following a public inquiry is to recommend the local authority to assist if it can. This the Secretary of State frequently does, but local authorities have other things to think of, and there is this absence of an obligation in Clause 31 to assist the travelling showmen. The travelling showmen do not have the ratepayers' money spent on them in the provision of caravan sites, as the local authorities have to spend it on gypsies. They make no complaint about this. Indeed, they prefer to be independent. They only ask that when the land upon which their homes stand is acquired by a compulsory purchase order they are placed in the same position as that of persons whose homes happen to be houses.

This Bill is an attempt to bring a new sense of justice to those who find themselves having to suffer hardship because of the desire on the part of authority to improve the amenities of our lives, and I hope that the Minister will find himself able to give some relief or compensation to those who are affected as I have tried to show.