The Housing Act 2004

Since the abolition of the duty on local authorities to provide Gypsy and Traveller sites in 1994, there has been a growing shortage of authorised sites. Around three-quarters of Gypsy and Traveller caravans are on authorised sites, most of which are well run and an established part of the community, but the remainder do not have an authorised place to stop. This has led to problems in some areas with unauthorised encampments where Gypsies and Travellers stop on land they do not own and unauthorised developments where they buy land and develop it without planning permission. These sites can cause real distress for local communities. The Government is clear that this problem will only be solved through better enforcement and more site provision; the two go hand in hand.

Planning Circular - 01/2006. Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites, sets out guidance which means that local planning authorities need to identify appropriate land for Gypsy and Traveller sites through the planning system in line with need in their area, to deal with the growing shortage of sites and prevent unauthorised sites in problem locations.

Part 6 of the Housing Act 2004 contains several provisions designed to mainstream the provision of accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers alongside that of the settled community, and to ensure that local authorities take a strategic approach to assessing and meeting the needs of Gypsies and Travellers as they do for the rest of the community.

In summary, the measures relating to Gypsies and Travellers contained within Part 6 of the Housing Act 2004:

  • Extend the meaning of a 'protected site' in England to include authorised county council sites for Gypsies and Travellers, and in respect of Scotland to include regional councils. The result is that the occupiers of these sites, like tenants in social housing, are entitled to a minimum period of notice before they can be evicted, possession can only be obtained by a court order, and they will be covered by the provisions in the 1968 Act concerning harassment and illegal eviction. This brings county council owned Gypsy and Traveller sites into line with sites owned by other types of local authority.
  • Provide the courts with the power to suspend eviction orders against those occupying authorised local authority Gypsy and Traveller sites, and allows for these suspensions to last for a period of up to 12 months. Sections of the Act covering the above measures were commenced 2 months after Royal Assent. The National Assembly for Wales will have separate commencement powers in respect of these provisions.
  • Require local authorities to undertake regular assessments of the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers either living in, or resorting to, their area - as they do for the rest of the community — under the Local Housing Needs Assessment process as set out in Section 8 of the Housing Act 1985. This will enable them to consider the need for additional temporary and permanent accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers in their area.
  • Require local authorities to develop a strategy to meet the needs of Gypsies and Travellers, as they do for the rest of the community, in line with Section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003, and to take any such strategy into account when they are exercising their other functions, such as planning, education and social care. Local housing authorities must also take into account any guidance issued by Communities and Local Government when carrying out their Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment and when developing their strategy.
  • Allow for regulations to be issued that define Gypsies and Travellers for the purpose of this section. This will allow the Secretary of State to consult on the definition and provides for the possibility of the definition changing over time if necessary. This paragraph also states that 'accommodation' in this Section means sites on which caravans can be stationed, in addition to bricks and mortar housing.
  • Allow for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on carrying out needs assessments and the preparation of housing strategies.
  • The duty to conduct Accommodation Needs Assessments and plan to strategically to meet identified need came into force on 2 January 2007. Regulations defining Gypsies and Travellers i.e. who should be included in Accommodation Needs Assessments and strategies also came into force on 2 January 2007. Draft practice guidance on conducting Accommodation Needs Assessments for Gypsies and Travellers is available from the Communities and Local Government website and final guidance will be issued in the Spring.


The Mobile Homes Act 1983 – The Mobile Homes Act 2004 (The Act)



The Mobile Homes Act 1983 made important changes in the way the law applies to mobile home sites. The Act applies to privately owned licensed sites, and to sites owned by local authorities. The Act, which replaces sections 1 to 6 of the Mobile Homes Act 1975, came into force on 20 May 1983. It introduced important new rules about security of tenure, the sale of mobile homes and other details of agreements between site owners and residents. If you are a resident on a mobile home* site, or if you own a mobile home site, this booklet may apply to you. It appears in the series of housing booklets produced jointly by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Office of the National Assembly for Wales. This booklet has also been produced jointly with the Scottish Executive Development Department. The housing booklets are free from rent offices, Citizens Advice Bureau, housing aid centers’ and local authorities.

Gypsy and Traveller Rights

National and European Courts have required Local Authorities to give proper regard to the health and welfare of Travellers and their children.

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires Public Authorities to have regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups. This includes Gypsies and Irish Travellers.

The Human Rights Act 1998 reinforces the need for Local Authorities to take account of the circumstances of each and every Gypsy and Traveller group and consider ‘needs of common humanity. G&T rights Jan 2008.doc

At the current time, legislation is being presented to the Houses of Parliament which see an amendment to the Caravan Sites Act 1968, and will be known as the Caravan sites Act 2011.

Historical Law

In the 1960’s, various attempts were made by both National and Local Government, to conduct censuses of ‘resident’ Gypsy populations. These indicated that the Traveller population of Britain was probably about 25,000. (Ministry of Housing & Local Government, Gypsies and other Travellers, HMSO, 1967) It is thought however, due to the elusive nature of many Gypsies, coupled with the fact that those who have been housed may have generally not been included, that the figures are inaccurate and underestimated. This has been confirmed by the count of numbers of Gypsy children not receiving regular schooling in five West Midland counties. These statistics, which use techniques less likely to be inaccurate than those previously employed, would suggest that the total population must now be closer to 300,000. This national figure is likely to be increasing at the rate of 2,000 per year. (Kenrick & Clark, 1999, p21)

The 1968 Caravan Sites Act defined Gypsies as “persons of nomadic habit of life, whatever their race or origin.” The Race Relations Act 1989 saw that Romany Gypsies were at last confirmed as an ethnic group. However, true Romany connections may have to be established in order to prove a case of discrimination. Not all Travellers are Romany, and not all Romany are nomadic. “Travellers” is used as a generic term, although some Romany prefer to be called Gypsies, so there is some inter-changeability. Each group has a different history, and to a considerable extent, different customs and traditions. The cultural identity of all groups is based upon self-employment, self help and nomadic. (Okey,1983) while persecution and discrimination has been a consistent theme for them all. (Liegeois, 1986) (In Cemlyn, 1993, pp246 – 261)

Gypsies and Travellers are usually visibly identified with caravans, but mobility is not their defining characteristic. Gypsies and Travellers comprise many groups, each with their own lifestyle, culture and traditions. Only Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised as distinct ethnic groups under the Race Relations Act, 1989. However, the experiences of second or third generation new Travellers, although not a distinct ethnic group, are believed to be similar to those of Gypsies and Irish Travellers when relocated to conventional housing. Adapting from a culture of nomadism and strong family support networks to life in conventional housing, often on large estates, can be isolating and confusing. Little research has been undertaken into any of these groups’ experiences, and limited recent research relates only to Gypsies and Irish Travellers.

‘Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependent’s educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, and all other persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism and/or caravan dwelling’ Housing Act 2004.

‘It is crucial to recognise that this ethnic and cultural identity does not simply evaporate when a household moves into conventional housing.’ Shelter,2007.

​Why is 

Today, home for the majority of Gypsies and Travellers is conventional bricks-and-mortar accommodation, rather than traditional caravans. The decision of a Gypsy or Traveller household to give up their mobile lifestyle have come about because of the dwindling availability of appropriate sites and legal stopping places or, through necessity, often because of needs relating to health or education.

No definitive figures exist, but the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has estimated that between 270,000 and 360,000 Gypsies and Irish Travellers live in conventional housing (1), around three times the number of those with a traditional nomadic lifestyle. The presence of these communities is largely invisible and their needs often go unsupported.

The lack of support for such households moving into an unfamiliar lifestyle can trigger a number of accommodation issues for individuals, local authorities, housing providers and neighbourhoods, for example:

  • Isolation from family support network
  • Failure to access key services
  • Rent arrears
  • Eviction
  • Repeat homelessness, and
  • Neighbourhood tensions resulting in racial harassment and antisocial behaviour.

At a time when the Government is looking to local authorities to increase and improve Gypsy and Traveller site provision, it is essential that the needs of these housed communities are also recognised and addressed.

Moreover, local authorities should be aware of their obligation to include these households in their regional framework for housing alongside other mobile Gypsy and Traveller communities. The Housing Act 2004 places a duty on local housing authorities to assess the needs of the Gypsies and Travellers in their area, and to provide for these needs in their Regional Housing Strategy. It is vital that Gypsies and Travellers in conventional housing are included in these assessments and in any strategic solutions.

  1. Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), Common Ground: Equality, good race relations and sites for Gypsies and Irish Travellers, 2006, section 1.2.

Equality Legislation — Challenges and Opportunities

The 1995 Criminal Justice Act effectively criminalised nomadism as a way of life in the UK. Local authorities are now no longer legally obliged to build sites and hundreds of existing pitches have been lost since the law was changed. Currently there is much legislation surrounding the defunction of ‘Gypsy Status’.

Since the abolition of the duty on local authorities to provide Gypsy & Traveller sites in 1994/5, there has been a growing shortage of authorised sites.


Originally published: July 2004

Updated: January 2007