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The Definition of Gypsies and Travellers

Hereward Phillpot QC

The High Court (Ouseley J) has handed down an important judgment concerning the definition of gypsy and traveller status for the purposes of forward planning and development control in the case of Julie Wingrove & Colin Brown v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Mendip DC (CO/2425/2009, 7 May 2009).

This is now the leading authority on the compatibility of the definition of gypsies and travellers in Circular 1/2006 with Art 8 ECHR and the relationship between that definition and the definition of gypsies and travellers in the Housing (Assessment of Accommodation Needs) (Meaning of Gypsies and Travellers) (England) Regulations 2006 (Ouseley J having raised concern over parts of the recent judgment in R (on the application of McCann) v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Basildon DC [2009] EWHC 917 (Admin)).

The Court clarified that the definition in the Circular concerning ‘persons of a nomadic habit of life' should be applied when exercising development control functions rather than the wider ‘housing' definition in the Regulations, which is deliberately more inclusive as its purpose is to ensure that nobody's housing need is ignored.

The balance struck by the Government in the Circular definition between the need for homes and the protection of the environment was found to be compliant with Article 8 of the ECHR.

Hereward Phillpot appeared for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.