Creating space and place for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers: resolving conflict

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: BL Faculty Research Office


There are approximately 10-12 million Roma, Gypsies and Travellers in Europe; comprising the largest ethnic minority group in the continent. The Council of Europe estimates that 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers reside in Britain; approximately 26% live on unauthorised sites, effectively homeless (a vivid recent example of the impact of unauthorised sites was at Dale Farm). Gypsies and Travellers have poor education and health outcomes (Cemlyn et. al, 2009 and Van Cleemput, 2004) and there are challenges in relation to employment (Greenfields and Ryder, 2010). They are one of the most marginalised groups in media and political debate (Richardson, 2006) and this can have an impact on planning for sites (Richardson, 2007). This social exclusion of Gypsies and Travellers has been compounded by poor access to services, a lack of political power and exclusion from decision making processes. There are also challenges ahead with the Localism Bill and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework in England that could further impact on the ability to make a place for Gypsies and Travellers (Richardson and Ryder, 2012 forthcoming).

These challenges need proper debate on a multidisciplinary level with academics, practitioners, policy makers and Gypsies and Travellers themselves. This proposal makes a place for this debate through a series of three two-day seminars. The team of investigators are building upon existing working relationships through previous research projects on accommodation needs (Cemlyn, Greenfields and Richardson), proposals to examine mediation in access to healthcare (Richardson and Van Cleemput), examination of cross-cutting issues through contribution to forthcoming publication edited by Richardson and Ryder (forthcoming 2012). An initial seminar and meeting with a range of academics was held on 25th October at Buckinghamshire New University to discuss the seminar series proposal and to establish roots for this emerging research group. Whilst there are good links between a small number of academics studying Gypsy and Traveller issues, the proposal seeks ESRC funding to allow a larger, multi-disciplinary group to grow and to establish a platform for future research to help inform policy and practice.

Each of the seminars will be a space for academics (including those at an early stage in their career), practitioners, policy makers, community members, Roma, Gypsy and Traveller representative organisations and politicians to come together to discuss cross-cutting, multi-disciplinary themes and ideas. The three seminars will look at:
(1)Conflict in space and place (accommodation and planning issues)
(2)Conflict in welfare and public service delivery (health, education, employment, social policy and policing issues)
(3)Conflict in representation (political and media discourse; analysis of conflict resolution approaches)

Within the three broad topic areas there will be a range of issues viewed through a central problem: How can we help provide tools to local communities and authorities to resolve conflict to enable provision of accommodation, health services, education and fairness in public debate? Conceptual questions in conflict, social inclusion and community cohesion theories will also be raised to explore issues. Whilst the seminar series is focused on Gypsies and Travellers, there will be ideas of relevance to other marginalised groups in society, and indeed other 'wicked' problems for local authorities in contentious planning and service delivery more generally.

In addition to the 'End of Award' and 'Impact' reports, outputs from each of the three seminars will provide material for draft academic journal articles, as well as 'easy to read' reports for Roma, Gypsy and Traveller community members, policy makers, practitioners and other interested organisations; the pathways to impact statement also describes immediate online methods of disseminating ideas during the course of the seminar series.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?
The seminar series will create impact and benefit for a number of different groups and individuals - beyond the academic sector. For this seminar series we expect to see Roma, Gypsy and Traveller community members, representative and voluntary organisations, policy makers, politicians and practitioners benefitting from the outcomes, including: The Gypsy Council, Friends, Families & Travellers, Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, New Traveller Association, Roma Support Group, Somerset Community Land Trust, London Gypsy and Traveller Unit, National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, Northern Network of Travelling Families, Ormiston Children and Families Trust, and the Travellers Aid Trust.

There is not one single Gypsy and Traveller representative group, which is why so many different organisations are listed above. There is a network of different groups representing a range of diverse interests. The complexity of Gypsy and Traveller representation means that individual Roma, Gypsies and Travellers respected by many in their communities are invited to participate. The Investigators, with key Gypsies and Travellers, will feed findings and ideas back to the range of different representative organisations for wider benefit.

Practitioner organisations will also benefit. The Chartered Institute of Housing has written a letter of support, as a partner organisation to the proposal, outlining how it will benefit from the seminars and what it will offer in return. The Royal Town Planning Institute has also shown support. On a policy level the All-Party Parliamentary Group is a partner organisation and has outlined in their letter how the seminars will inform their discussions at Westminster. Councillors in the Local Government Association Gypsy Working Group also anticipate benefits in participating.

European agencies can benefit both from participating in the seminars, but also from outputs and findings in the end report. For example Richardson was invited by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to take part in a scholars meeting in Warsaw (2010) on media representation of Roma in Europe. This seminar series (particularly seminar three on media discourse) will report to Andrzeg Mirga (OSCE Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues) to feed further findings and ideas back into that debate.

How will they benefit?
The relevance and impact of this seminar series can be seen on an economic and societal basis. Briscoe (2007) reported that £18 million per annum is spent in Britain on clearing up unauthorised encampments, that figure can be increased for 2011 where an additional £18 million has reportedly been spent by Basildon council alone for one eviction of Dale Farm residents. It has been found (Richardson, 2007) that this expenditure on eviction makes a powerful economic case for providing sites. This seminar series can move the debate on from the academic into something practical and relevant for local politicians and practitioners with strong economic impact if future savings can be made through provision of sites rather than expenditure on eviction. Writing up good practice guides from the seminar findings and links to networks such as the CIH, RTPI and the Local Government Association Gypsy Working Group will help facilitate this.

Societal impact will result from the ideas of conflict resolution and restorative practice tools that can be used in a number of areas - planning and accommodation, health, education and media debate. The aim is to facilitate ways in which space can be found in the debate, and a physical place can be found to accommodate Gypsies and Travellers so that they can settle and improve their health, wellbeing and education outcomes. The societal impact does not just relate to Gypsies and Travellers but to the wider society if community cohesion and principles of 'Big Society' can be achieved.


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Description The findings from the seminar series project have been used to inform debates by the All Party Parliamentary Group Roma Gypsies and Travellers. It has also led to a 'listening exercise' in Leeds which in turn led to an evaluation project ongoing until 2017. The findings were also discussed with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of their debates on future strategy of research at JRF and this led to a succesful bid under an open call (see further funding). Two journal articles have also been published, one specifically on the theme of the seminars which examined discourse, control and Gypsy/Travellers, but links were made to another project on co-production in research.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Open Call (Project title: Co-producing conflict resolution methods for Gypsy and Traveller sites)
Amount £99,915 (GBP)
Funding ID 3286 
Organisation Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2015
Description Evalution of Asset Based Community Development Project 
Organisation Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (Leeds GATE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Leeds Gypsy and Traveller have undertaken a project to use an asset based community development approach over three years, funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation. I am leading an evaluation of the project.
Collaborator Contribution Funding for the evaluation.
Impact This is an ongoing project which will produce a final report in July 2017.
Start Year 2014