Friday, February 03, 2012

The Gypsy site situation

From the beginning I was opposed to the Gypsy/Traveller/Travelling Showpeople (GTTS) site survey. Sadly the human tendency to think in binary terms meant that for some this automatically placed me on the side of the bigots and racists. However I was never against it because of who it targeted, but because it targeted any one group in the first place and the methods being used to justify it.

Rather than explain that this particular community is unfairly discriminated against our council simply waved the fact that they had to do this by law. A disgusting show of 'We don't want to do this it's the law making us' that is part of the negative discrimination the law is trying to counteract. Worse yet this feeble excuse simply stokes up the ire of those who aren't benefiting from this -' Why should they get special treatment when I don't?' that in turn creates more negative discrimination and ironically reinforces and justifies the need for the law.

However I'd 'come out' on the side of the bigots and another human tendency that once a decision has been made stick with it meant that any arguments along these lines I produced meant I was either trying to weasel my way out of the situation or being an apologist for said bigots.

The next call came when over 50% of the report was essentially ignored by the Cabinet and sites were put forward for public consultation that were predominately skewed towards one town and one area of said town in particular.

I didn't think these particular sites were suitable for any residents; but by this time as soon as anyone attempted to speak out some would pop up to point a finger and shout Bigot or Racist at them. In a misguided attempt to educate I pointed out that some of the statements made were factually true; that simply discounting them and using names were means to shut down rational discourse; and that both sides were using the same methods to fight one another when we (the non-bigots) should be better than that. I turned the arguments around and again misguidedly attempted to show that rather than demand they produce evidence to back up their claims by simply using names or stating they were wrong it placed them in the strong position of being able to state "Prove me wrong then!" which should have been our position.

I'd already been labelled though and so this just reinforced my position as an apologist.

Again I tried to make my position clear - I didn't think sites should be allocated just for the GTTS community, but be open to anyone who lived in a caravan particularly those on the council waiting list for accommodation. I didn't think the sites were suitable for any residential development and not just GTTS sites; but nope I'm a bigot and it seems nothing was going to change some people's minds on that.

So what's been the outcome of all this?

Groups of people have been brought together not to oppose residential development but to specifically oppose GTTS development and thus directly against this community. By opening up a constrained public consultation the council have taken the side of these most vocal groups with the expected benefit of being re-elected next term. By using various excuses the council have reinforced their position that this is somehow distasteful and that the public are right to oppose it.

The only good things that's come out of this is that more people are becoming aware of how heavy-handed the council and in particular the Cabinet have been; and that I've noted a marked tendency for those who commented the most on this to explain and use facts to support their positions. However that's been far overshadowed by the spotlight one single community, who essentially want to be left alone, have been placed under.