The battlefield was the well-trodden one of a Gypsy family living in caravans within the Green Belt, but without existing planning permission for those caravans. Ms Stevens sought to regularise this by applying for retrospective permission. The Council turned her down, and her appeal to a planning inspector was dismissed. She then made a statutory challenge to that decision under section 288 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990, seeking to quash it and have it re-determined.
Knowles and another, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 19 (Admin) – read judgment
The High Court has rejected a claim that Gypsies occupying caravans on private land were discriminated against by legislation which resulted in them not being able to claim full Housing Benefit to cover their rent.
Occupiers of caravans on a site owned by a local housing authority receive a Housing Benefit rent rebate of the whole of the rent charged. But if the caravan is on a private site, then the rent on which HB can be claimed is subject to determination by a rent officer, and that is normally substantially less than the full contractual rent charged. The claimants maintained that this scheme fails to meet the essential housing needs of Gypsies on private sites, who have particular site infrastructure and management needs – which result in additional costs, and hence a legitimately higher rent, not reflected in the HB awarded. They contended that the scheme was therefore discriminatory, and in breach of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, when read with article 1 of the First Protocol 1 (the right to property) and article 8 of the substantive Convention (the right to respect for family and private life). Continue reading →
We reported earlier on the threat by EC Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding to institute infringement proceedings against France in respect of its expulsion of Roma and the dismantling of their encampments. It seems now that the Commission itself may not have the stomach for an action expressly based on the ban on discrimination in the EC Treaty and the Free Movement Directive.
In the ongoing row over France’s repatriation of Roma nationals there has been little debate over precisely what power the EU Commission has to initiate legal action against the French government.
Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, is widely reported to have declared that France faces possible infringement proceedings and a fine from the European Court of Justice in respect of its dismantling of Roma camps and repatriation of up to a thousand Bulgarian and Romanian Roma citizens since last month. It is suggested that the French government is guilty of applying the 2004 Directive of Free Movement of Persons in a “discriminatory” fashion, offending not only directive’s own provisions, but the European Treaty’s principle of non discrimination (Article 19) and also, possibly, the ban on collective expulsion of aliens under Protocol 4 Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
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