Monday, 15 September 2014 09:13

Planning measures 'will protect countryside'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Planning measures 'will protect countryside'

NEW planning measures aim to ensure greater fairness while protecting the countryside from unauthorised traveller sites, says the government.

Proposed new measures to tackle travellers who flout planning rules and abuse the system would crack down on unauthorised sites, said housing minister Brandon Lewis.

They would ensure fairness for everyone in the planning system and provide greater protection for our countryside and the green belt, Mr Lewis said on Sunday (14 September).

Tensions between travellers and the settled population had been created by a four-fold increase in the numbers of unauthorised caravans between 200 and 2009, he said.

Measures proposed would ensure those who caused misery to their neighbours by setting up unauthorised sites did not benefit from the very planning rules they chose to ignore.

Brandon Lewis said: "We will not sit back and allow people who bypass the law to then benefit from the protection it can offer.

"We have already strengthened the powers that councils have to enforce planning rules and take action against breaches which fuel community tensions."

The new powers would not only tackle the abuse of the system but prevent drawn-out cases like Dale Farm – a long running dispute between travellers and Basildon council in Essex.

The proposed rules would end the perverse incentive for councils not to act when travellers ignored planning rules and set up unauthorised sites, said Mr Lewis.

Misery for neighbours as well as significant costs to the council can be created when travellers set up large-scale unauthorised sites, says the government.

Under the proposals, councils would simply be required to plan to provide sites for the numbers of travellers they could reasonably expect – rather than for largescale unauthorised sites

The proposals would also see the definition of travellers changed in planning law so councils would only be asked to plan ahead to meet the needs of those leading a genuine travelling lifestyle.

This would mean any application for a permanent site by someone who has stopped physically travelling would be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population.

The government says most travellers are law-abiding citizens who abide by planning rules.

It says the proposed measures would ensure travellers who play by the rules are put on an equal footing, giving them the same chance of having a safe place to live as anyone else.

Ministers also want to strengthen the level of protection given to sensitive areas and the green belt against inappropriate traveller site development.

Proposals would ensure green belt policy applies to traveller sites in the same way it does for most bricks-and-mortar housing with limitations on new traveller sites in open countryside.

The government consultation on the proposals can be viewed here.

People in this conversation

  • Brandon Lewis says the rules are already tightened, but is there evidence that this is effective? The problem in creating our local plan is that we have been forced to identify need, which is bound to mean that if you already have a lot of travellers then you "need" a lot more. Having identified a "need", we are then required to fulfil it. This presumption heavily in favour of development that was intended to drive massive house-building has the side effect of driving many more traveller sites.

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