Plot allocation scheme and criteria for gypsy and traveller sites

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Introduction

Surrey County Council is committed to the continued provision of plots on the permanent sites it manages within the county, to enable gypsy and traveller families to live in caravans/mobile homes.

We understand and give proper regard to the provisions of Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), which prohibits discrimination, and the Equality Act 2010, which recognises both English/Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers as ethnic minorities; against whom discrimination is unlawful.

The Council also recognizes and gives regard to all relevant published government guidance, in particular in relation to supporting the Gypsy/Traveller way of life.

The purpose of this Allocation Scheme is to ensure we operate a fair and transparent process:

  • for all applicants wishing to join the council's Site Waiting List; and
  • for assessing applicants for allocation of vacant plots when these arise.

Plot allocation

We delegate responsibility for granting licenses on our land, including Gypsy sites, to Delivery and Estates Managers within the Property Services department. They will act upon the Gypsy Site Manager's allocation recommendation and any further report (e.g. on compatibility).

Vacant plots will be allocated to Gypsies and Travellers on our Site Waiting List, in accordance with the allocation criteria, based on need, links to the area and personal and other relevant circumstances. The Council recognises, however, because of the particular circumstances of the Gypsy community it is necessary to operate a flexible scheme.

The Gypsy sites waiting list

Applicants can apply to join our Site Waiting List by completing a Gypsy Sites Application Form. These are available to collect from:

County Hall, Penryhn Road, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey, KT1 2DN.

The Applicant can express a preference for a particular Site or Sites but will in any event be placed on our general Site Waiting List.

Applicants can also contact the Gypsy Sites Manager who can either arrange to deliver the form to them or appointments at County Hall to assist applicants with completion of the form. Contact via the Property helpdesk by telephone on 020 8541 9000 (option 6 or option 4 when "out of hours") or by email: myhelpdeskproperty@surrycc.gov.uk

Applicants are expected to maintain at least annual contact with the council, or be available to respond to requests from us, with the purpose of obtaining updated information on their circumstances.

Contact from us will be made via any contact details provided by applicants in their application form (i.e. a postal address and/or email address and/or telephone number). It is also, therefore, the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that it keeps the Council notified of any changes.

If we are unable to contact and confirm updated information for a period of 18 months, then we reserve the right to either suspend (pending further enquiries) or remove the applicant from the Site Waiting List. Such removal will not prevent a fresh application being made by an applicant at a future date, but this will count as a new application and will not act to revive the earlier application.

Assessment of applications – allocation criteria

All vacant council plots will be subject to this Allocation Scheme and process, even if they subsequently become occupied for any reason before the allocation has taken place. This is to ensure that the widest field of applicants are considered for plots when they become available.

In general, we will consider up to eight applicants for a vacant plot, but may consider a fewer or greater number where the circumstances justify this. If applicants have expressed a preference for a plot on the particular site where the vacancy has arisen, we will generally endeavour to consider all these applicants.

Applications will be assessed using the following eight criteria. Each application is scored (between 1 to 10) against the criteria.

The score is then multiplied by the applicable percentage weighting.

Criteria

1-10 Score

Weight

Total

Related / close family connection to existing resident(s)

 

20%

 

Residing in, or previously resided / resorted to Surrey, and specific area where the Site is located

 

20%

 

Family make-up (children etc)

 

15%

 

Years on waiting list

 

10%

 

Present circumstances (inc. health / welfare issues)

 

20%

 

Relevant history (inc. known to Gypsy Site Manager)

 

10%

 

In receipt of Income / Housing Benefit / ability to pay

 

5%

 
 TOTAL: 

N.B. Relevant issues, such as compatibility with existing residents / impact on site order and effective management, may also be taken into account - see further below.

No points will be given (and no entry onto the Site Waiting List) to applicants who:

  • are not registered on Surrey County Council's Gypsy Sites Waiting List, or any register maintained by the District / Borough in which the Site is located;
  • have a license to occupy a pitch elsewhere;
  • have existing accommodation (house, plot or interest in another property);
  • age or immigration status prevents the grant of a license; or
  • have behaved, or have a history of behaving, in such an unacceptable way that this would have entitled the Council to take legal action had they been a licensee.

Examples (not exhaustive) of unacceptable behaviour include:

  • Significant rent arrears or breach of site licence conditions.
  • Serious nuisance or annoyance to neighbours, or the local community, including Anti-Social Behaviour.
  • Any conviction for violence, or threats of violence, including domestic violence or for using or allowing plot to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, such as drug dealing.
  • Any conviction for theft, fraud or dishonesty.
  • Any attempts to transfer or buy/sell a plot on a Council Site from a resident outside the Council's Allocation Scheme.
  • Damage or neglect of a property.
  • Persistently keeping animals that are incompatible for housing on a residential Gypsy/Traveller site.
  • Breeding animals for sale / unlawful fighting.

These examples are not exhaustive and we expressly reserve the right to consider any issues of conduct that we reasonably consider relevant to allocation.

50% Reduction in Points will be applied to applicants who:

  • Have planning consent to build on land they own, unless they can demonstrate that they cannot afford to carry out the necessary work to make it habitable;
  • Have applied to our Site Waiting List or a Local Authority Housing register and have declined an offer of a plot or an offer of traditional housing accommodation within a 12 month period;
  • Have moved on to a vacant council plot without securing the appropriate advance consent / permission from us and have refused to vacate the plot on request, whether pending an allocation exercise/decision or otherwise.

Supporting evidence

Our Allocation Scheme will take account of applicants' links to the specific site and/or prioritise allocation to applicants who are already resident and/or with links to the Surrey area. Accordingly, evidence is required to demonstrate that applicants are residing in, or have previously resided / resorted to Surrey, and the specific area where the Site is located. Evidence is also required to demonstrate receipt of any benefits and access to any local services (e.g. schools):

As many as possible of the following documents should be provided:

  • Electoral Register
  • Council Tax
  • Housing Benefit / Income Support / Working Family Tax Credit / Child Benefit
  • Utility Bills
  • VAT or Income Tax returns
  • School attendance letters

Letters from doctors or hospitals may be submitted to provide information on any relevant health / welfare issues that applicants wish to be taken into account but will not be accepted to demonstrate residence, since experience has shown that patients (not just Gypsies and Travellers) often stay with the same doctor even when they change their address.

It is the responsibility of applicants to provide any/all documentation to support their application. Other than in exceptional circumstances we will not be responsible for an applicant's failure to provide such documentation, or if an allocation decision proceeds without information an applicant considers should have been taken into account but was not made available to us at the time.

Compatibility

Due to the very nature of Gypsy sites and the close proximity of plots, the compatibility of a new licensee with existing licensees is of paramount importance. With this close proximity, any incompatibility can give rise to very serious problems for other site residents, for the management of the site and for the local community and for other public partner organisations and services, such as the Local Council, the Police and schools.

Incompatibility can occur for a variety of reasons, religious practices, ethnicity, life style and personality. The Council takes no position or judgment, and will remain impartial to all parties but recognises that it is unreasonable to expect two families on Gypsy/Traveller sites who are incompatible to live in close proximity without creating serious problems for themselves, the Council or the surrounding community.

Gypsy site manager report

We may be aware of reasons why an applicant would be incompatible for allocation of a plot on a particular site. This information will be included in a Gypsy Sites Manager's Report and taken into account at the time an application is assessed.

Also, where one or more persons have scored equally against the criteria, the Gypsy Site Manager will make further enquires with the relevant site residents and then refer their report to the Delivery / Estates Manager for a final decision to be taken, taking into account compatibility and any other relevant circumstances.

Transfers

Notionally, a Transfer Waiting List is held in a similar format to the Gypsy Sites Waiting List. If a plot vacancy arises, the Gypsy Sites Manager may support an existing licensee's application for a transfer and then letting the resulting plot vacancy to a new applicant.

Any purported transfers or sale of plots which take place between site residents without our permission are expressly forbidden, however, and will be treated as "unacceptable behaviour" within the terms of this Allocation Scheme.

Provision of Information

Every Applicant is entitled:

  • to request general information that will enable them to assess how their application will be treated;
  • to be informed of any decision about the facts of their case which have been, or are likely to be, taken into account in considering whether to allocate a plot to them;
  • to be informed of any decision that they have been found unsuitable to be allocated a plot.

Reviews

Applicants have a right to ask for a review of a decision by the Delivery / Estates Manager in the following circumstances:

  • Where their entry to the Gypsy Sites Waiting List has been refused because of:
    • immigration status; or
    • unacceptable behaviour exclusion;
  • Where their points have been reduced because they have applied to the Council Waiting List or a Local Authority Housing register and have declined an offer of a plot or traditional housing accommodation
  • Where there points have been reduced because they had moved onto a vacant plot without obtaining our permission and refused to leave when requested
  • Where their application has been cancelled for lack of contact / updating information.

The Review will be carried out by the Head of Property Services and may, at the discretion of the Head of Property Services, take account of any new information that the Applicant may wish to have considered. The decision of the Property Services is final and binding.

Repeat applications

Unless there are any significant changes of circumstances, any application which has been rejected (either for entry onto the Waiting List or for a particular vacant plot), will not be reconsidered within any 12 month period.

Monitoring

The allocation criteria are kept under review to ensure they take account of changes in legislation / guidance. They will also be reviewed periodically to take account of experience of applying the criteria, or the views of site residents / applicants.

The Head of Property Services may make minor changes to the Allocation Scheme / Criteria as a result of such monitoring. However, these changes should not significantly affect the majority of applicants. Any significant changes will be more widely consulted upon before any change is implemented.