GYPSY AND traveller groups have told MPs inquiring into caravan site provision that they need more accommodation, the BBC reports.

MPs in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister select committee heard that many gypsies were being criminalised because of lack of space.

The claims have been backed up by government research which estimates that up to 2000 additional permanent pitches and up to 2,500 transit pitches are needed by 2007.

Witnesses said that legal traveller accommodation should be given the same status as housing.

Kay Beard, who heads the National Association for Gypsy Women of the UK, said facilities on sites needed to be improved, with owners of private sites taking responsibility for cleaning communal toilets.

“We feel we have to justify our very existence just because we are gypsy people. We don‘t believe our cultural way of life has ever been recognised or respected and we feel now it‘s about time that it was.

“After all the gypsy men of this country fought in two world wars for king and country,” Ms Kay said. 

Charles Smith – who chairs the Gypsy Council – stressed that it was important to talk about “accommodation needs” rather that “housing needs” adding “not everybody chooses to live in a house”.