Council to review its housing allocation scheme in face of discrimination claim by Irish Traveller

03 Feb 2016

In R (VC) v North Somerset Council (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) CO/3801/2015, a Council has settled a judicial review claim which had argued it’s housing allocations scheme was discriminatory against Gypsies and Travellers, in particular the “local connection” requirement. The Claimant was represented by Marc Willers QC (Garden Court Chambers) and Joseph Markus of Garden Court North Chambers.

This claim concerned a challenge brought by an Irish Traveller to a “local connection” requirement contained within North Somerset Council’s housing allocations scheme, which had been extended beyond Part VI Housing Act 1996 allocations to cover Gypsy/Traveller site allocations. The effect of that requirement was that the Claimant, who could not point to a local connection to North Somerset, was denied entry to the Council’s housing register.

The claim was brought on a number of grounds including, in particular, that the Council had failed to pay due regard to statutory equality objectives (in accordance with section 149 of the Equality Act 2010) and that the local connection requirement was, in any event, indirectly discriminatory in relation to Gypsies and Travellers and unjustifiably so.

The Claimant had argued that many ethnic Gypsies and Travellers still lived a nomadic lifestyle (in the absence of sufficient permanent sites to meet their accommodation needs) and that, as a consequence, the local connection requirement was likely to have an adverse effect on proportionately more Gypsies and Travellers than members of the settled population.

The Claimant’s case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which agreed that there was a differential impact and that it was difficult to see how a local connection requirement in an allocations scheme could ever be justified for ethnic groups whose members are nomadic.

The Defendant Council did not file any evidence to suggest that it had discharged its duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 or to support its position that any discrimination could be objectively justified.

In the event the case settled on the day before the trial of the claim and, on 2 February 2016, Collins J approved an order by which the Defendant Council undertook:

(a) To place the Claimant on its housing register; and

(b) To undertake a review of its housing allocations scheme, specifically with reference to section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

Collins J also ordered the Defendant Council to pay the Claimant’s costs of bringing the claim for judicial review.

Joseph was instructed by Parminder Sanghera of the Community Law Partnership.

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