Housing Lawyer
Ministers promise councils greater freedoms over travellers site provision PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 March 2012 00:00

Streamlined government guidance will put the provision of travellers sites “back into the hands of local councils, in consultation with local communities”, ministers have claimed.

The revised guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government is just eight pages long, compared to 54 previously.

Ministers said local authorities would have the “freedom and responsibility” to determine the right level of site provision in their area.

The guidance sets out the Government’s view that traveller sites are inappropriate development for Green Belt land. “[It] makes clear that there should be due regard for the protection of the local environment and amenities when local authorities set out their criteria for allocating sites,” it adds.

The Department also said there would be changes to planning law to limit retrospective planning applications for any form of unauthorised development, as well as the introduction of incentives for new and refurbished traveller sites. This will deliver a better balance between site provision and enforcement, it argued.

The DCLG has identified a number of “key aims” in relation to travellers sites. These are:

  • “local planning authorities should make their own assessment of need for the purposes of planning;
  • to ensure that local planning authorities, working collaboratively, develop fair and effective strategies to meet need through the identification of land for sites;
  • to encourage local planning authorities to plan for sites over a reasonable timescale;
  • that plan-making and decision-taking should protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development;
  • to promote more private traveller site provision while recognising that there will always be those travellers who cannot provide their own sites;
  • that plan-making and decision-taking should aim to reduce the number of unauthorised developments and encampments and make enforcement more effective;
  • for local planning authorities to ensure their local plan includes fair, realistic and inclusive policies;
  • to increase the number of traveller sites in appropriate locations with planning permission, to address under-provision and maintain an appropriate level of supply;
  • to reduce tensions between settled and traveller communities in plan-making and planning decisions;
  • to enable provision of suitable accommodation from which travellers can access education, health, welfare and employment infrastructure; and
  • for local planning authorities to have due regard to the protection of local amenities and the local environmental.”

The Government suggested that planning rules had harmed community relations over recent years, “by imposing top-down targets for traveller sites on local councils, increasing the number of unauthorised sites, and compelling councils to encroach onto the Green Belt”.

Ministers also argued that previous policy had created a perception of special treatment for some travellers, and that this undermined the notion of fair play in the system.

The DCLG insisted that its changes would reduce tensions between settled and traveller communities.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: "Top-down targets from central Government failed to provide adequate land for travellers and caused tensions with the local settled community. People want to see fair play in the planning system, treating everyone fairly and equally.

"These new policies will allow local authorities to govern their own affairs whilst ensuring that both travellers and the settled communities get a fair deal through the planning system."

A report from a Ministerial Working Group examining the inequalities faced by traveller groups is expected shortly.

The revised policy can be downloaded here.

 

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