Planning for Travellers
2nd April, 2012
With the launch of the National Planning Policy Framework last week the governments new policy guidance on “Planning Policy for Travellers Sites” may have been overlooked. Given the news coverage given to sites such as Dale Farm at Crays Hill in Essex everyone will be aware of problems which can arise through the planning system being flouted as well as the massive cost in terms of time and resources needed to bring the issues to a close. However, the need for suitable sites for travellers is perhaps the only way to ensure such problems do not arise in the future. The new policy document seeks to achieve this balance.
This short policy document, some 8 pages of guidance, has to be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Framework. It is a substantially slimmed down document from its predecessors 54 pages and follows the coalition Government’s attempts to remove the “top-down” planning approach of imposing targets on the provision of traveller sites at a regional level.
The aim of the new policy is to allow local authorities to set their own targets for the provision of allocated traveller sites whilst ensuring the protection of the green belt and other important open space. The aim is to give both the travellers and the settled community a “fair deal” from the planning system (Bob Neill MP).
The new policies emphasise the need for local authorities to use a robust evidence base to identify the need for sites in their area and to ensure that proposed sites should be identified through the local plan process. The need to promote “peaceful and integrated co-existence” between any proposed sites and the local community forms a part of the policy framework whilst the allocation of rural or semi rural sites should not dominate local communities.
Although the policy is in favour of any decision being made on proper planning principles, as set out in the NPPF and a locally adopted development plan, it does provide one key policy for the benefit of travellers. If a local authority cannot demonstrate that they have an up-to-date five year supply of deliverable sites then this will be a “significant material consideration” for the local authority when determining applications for temporary sites. This weighting will only apply 12 months from the date of the NPPF coming into force (27 March 2012). Local authorities will have to work hard over the next twelve months to put in place a robust evidence base or possibly face the risk of temporary applications for traveller pitches being pushed through the system. This is likely to be of concern to local communities near to any proposed temporary site.
If you have any issues regarding the proposed allocation of traveller sites or planning matters in general please contact us on 01244 405555.
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