Thursday, 27 October 2011

Planning for gypsys

Mark Pennington over at Pileus analyzes the expulsion of the Roma Irish Travellers [who I had mistakenly thought had had a link long back with the Roma] from an illegal camp site at Dale Farm in Essex. Honestly, I'd not paid much attention and had just figured that they were camped out on public land or on somebody else's property. But that was wrong. Here's Mark:

There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to evict the Gypsies from the site was the correct one under the terms of British law and land use planning law in particular. There is, however, equally no doubt in my mind that UK law in this regard is oppressive and provides a prime illustration of what happens when private property rights are over-ridden in the name of third party ‘community interests’.
As I understand it, the Dale Farm residents bought the property from whence they were evicted, but they acted illegally in erecting a campsite which had not been granted planning permission. As noted in previous posts on this site development rights in the UK are nationalised – if you own a piece of land you have no right to develop it as such – merely a right to request permission to do so from a local government planning authority which purports to represent ‘the community’. As a consequence, all land use decisions are fundamentally politicised and this typically results in the triumph of local ‘nimbyism’.
The Dale farm residents and other gypsies are unfortunate victims of this nimbyism. Though they were wrong to break the law in erecting an illegal site, the reason that they did so was that it is so difficult for them to legitimately build sites anywhere in the country – even on land that they themselves own. Whenever they apply for permission this is typically refused owing to the hordes of local nimby’s pressuring the local authorities and indeed the national government to keep out what are seen as ‘undesirable residents’.
Mark notes the irony of that those protesting the eviction also favour the democratization of all property use, ensuring the politicization of all land use decisions and the repression of folks who scare the median local voter. As Jennifer Roback points out* racism is cheaper at the ballot box than in the market.

* I love this article, which anticipates some of the arguments that came in the Brennan and Lomasky work on expressive voting and in Caplan's Rational Irrationality model.


  1. Roma? The Dale Farm gypsies are Irish Travellers.

  2. @Peter - I'm wrong in having thought there was a link? Happy to be corrected.