asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will commission a research study to ascertain whether there is a correlation between changes in the Department for Communities and Local Government count figures for Gypsy and Traveller caravans, and the corresponding accommodation needs assessments; and, if so, what steps they will take to ensure that less thorough needs assessments do not result in lower obligations for the local authorities in the regional spatial strategies. [HL113]
Accommodation needs assessments are intended to be an in-depth look across the range of Gypsies and Travellers residing in or resorting to a local authority's area. The assessment should include, where possible, Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks and mortar accommodation and travelling show people. It may also look at future migration into and out of the area. The caravan count on the other hand is a twice yearly “snapshot” of the number of caravans occupied by Gypsies and Travellers within the area, whether on authorised or unauthorised sites. While the set of data can act as a reference point for the other, there are many reasons why their respective results might not coincide.
The department has issued interim guidance on conducting accommodation needs assessments, which will be finalised next spring. It is also supporting research to assist regional assemblies in determining patterns of provision at regional level. On this basis, we do not see a need for additional research. Regional assemblies will need to take account of all relevant information in developing their strategies, which will also be subject to consultation and examination in public.