New planning rules specially designed to support England’s travelling community will only apply to those who lead a genuine travelling lifestyle, under changes that came into force on Bank Holiday Monday.
Amendments to the old rules were made as part of wider measures to tackle unauthorised occupation of sites and ensure all communities are required to abide by the same planning rules.
Under a new package of reforms, there will also be greater protection for the countryside and Green Belt, while councils will continue to have a range of powers at their disposal to tackle the illegal encampments that make their law-abiding neighbours’ lives a misery.
Tackling unauthorised development
Between 2000 and 2009 there was a four-fold increase in the numbers of caravans on unauthorised sites – creating tensions between travellers and the settled populations.
Today’s new policy makes clear the need to ensure fairness in the system, with planning policy reflecting the requirement that caravan sites should be made available for those who travel permanently.
In addition, it will mean any application for a permanent site, including caravan sites, by someone who does not travel will be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population – rather than being considered under policies relating to Travellers.
Today’s changes also tackle the current situation, where councils without an up-to-date supply of caravan sites can find that protections of the Green Belt can be eroded.
The new planning policy ensures this is no longer the case where proposed developments are in protected areas – such as Green Belt land, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks.
In addition, where previously councils were required to provide sites for people evicted from large-scale unauthorised encampments that happened to be in their area, like Dale Farm, this will be removed.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said “I’m determined to ensure fairness in the planning system, so everyone abides by the same rules. Today’s new policy strengthens the hand of councils to tackle unauthorised development in their area, ensures all communities are treated equally and that the protection of the Green Belt is enforceable.”
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said “Unauthorised traveller sites can blight communities, causing misery for their neighbours and creating resentment that planning rules don’t seem to be applied fairly. Today’s revised planning policy clearly sets out the protection against unauthorised occupation and that the rules apply fairly to every community equally – no ifs, no buts.”