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Council reviews allocation scheme after challenge to local connection requirement

A local authority has agreed to review its housing allocation scheme after being faced with a discrimination claim brought by an Irish Traveller, it has been reported.

The claim related 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.

Garden Court Chambers said 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 that:

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  • the council had failed to pay due regard to statutory equality objectives (in accordance with section 149 of the Equality Act 2010); and
  • the local connection requirement was, in any event, indirectly discriminatory in relation to Gypsies and Travellers and unjustifiably so.

According to Garden Court, the claimant 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.

His case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The case settled on the day before the trial of the claim and on 2 February 2016 Mr Justice Collins approved an order by which North Somerset undertook to place the claimant on its housing register. The local authority also undertook to carry out 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.

A spokesman for North Somerset said: “We can confirm that the council agreed to an order which includes a requirement to review the application of the local connection criterion to Gypsies and Travellers on eligibility to join its housing register. We would expect to undertake this review over the next six months although timescales have yet been set given the order was only agreed this week.”

Marc Willers QC (Garden Court Chambers) and Joseph Markus (Garden Court North) represented the claimant, instructed by Parminder Sanghera of the Community Law Partnership.

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