Negotiated Stopping - How is it going?
A case study from Leeds, West Yorkshire
Young People getting a chance to play on the first Negotiated Stopping site in Leeds
Negotiated – ‘an agreement reached by discussion’
Stopping – ‘a cessation of movement’
The 2009 West Yorkshire Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment identified a need for 40 new pitches in Leeds before 2013 and for a further 8 pitches before 2015 to accommodate population growth. No new pitches have become available during this period although there are several private planning applications pending and the Local Authority has notified of its decision to apply for planning permission to increase the 41 pitch local authority site at Cottingley Springs to 53 pitches. The local authority estimates that up to 12 homeless Gypsy or Traveller families are already living on Cottingley Springs ‘doubled up’ on pitches leased by family members, and that up to 12 families living on unauthorised encampments in Leeds are in need and eligible for accommodation in the city. It is this last group of families that are the subject of this briefing.
Between 2003 and 2010 Leeds City Council spent £2 million on ‘eviction and clear up costs’ associated with unauthorised encampment. Contact between the Local Authority and the ‘roadside’ Gypsy and Traveller families was limited to enforcement action to remove the families – with no attempts to identify acceptable locations for the families to move to. Locations of unauthorised encampments were increasingly inappropriate, including leisure use and church land, as previous camps were bunded.
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, a community members association, provides advocacy and development support to members living on the roadside. The organisation raised concerns about the health and wellbeing costs to the families living on unauthorised encampments, as well as the identified financial costs to the local authority, and uncalculated costs to the police force and health and education providers (missed appointments, school absence).
Leeds City Council Scrutiny Enquiry
In January 2011 LCC published the findings of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Panel into Gypsy and Traveller site provision. The panel had received submissions from a range of contributors including Leeds GATE and directly from Gypsy and Traveller people living on Leeds unauthorised encampments. In the first of 12 recommendations, the Scrutiny Panel suggested that the authority should conduct a pilot ‘negotiated stopping’ scheme
The first pilot of Negotiated Stopping in Leeds
In May 2011 the ‘Leeds families’ returned to camp on a location in Holbeck from which they had previously been evicted. The Chief Housing Officer was tasked to lead a review of the location with a view to initiating negotiated stopping.
The desirable criteria for the authority were:
- That the land was a ‘defensible space’ in that land available was restricted and any encampment therefore would be restricted in size.
- That there was some ‘buy-in’ to the project among local business owners, the police and elected members.
- The location was safe for the families and that they were prepared to stay there.
Although the site was an industrial area close to an area regularly used by on street sex workers, it was agreed that the pilot should go ahead. Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange acted as a facilitator to assist with the drawing up and signing (by heads of families, on behalf of named individuals in their families) of an agreement between the families and the authority. The agreement was to last for three months. As their part of the agreement the city council would provide rubbish disposal and ‘portaloo’ toilets for each family. The agreements were signed at Leeds GATE office. Leeds GATE also assisted with communication to local communities by facilitating access to the families for an article on the pilot which appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post and via blogs on the Leeds GATE website.
The second negotiated stopping site
The Chief Housing Officer was determined that the council would stick to its word and that the camp would not remain in the Holbeck location beyond the agreed period. Support was gathered among relevant elected members, local businesses and neighbourhood policing teams for the camp to move to another location at Lincoln Green. A successful move took place. The camp remained in its location for four months, with elected members expressing that they were content for it to remain beyond 3 months.