Ministers believe planning rules have seriously harmed community relations over the last few 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. At the same time ministers believe that policy introduced under the previous administration created a perception of special treatment for some travellers undermining the notion of ‘fair play’ in the planning system and further harming community cohesion.
The Government is committed to the protection of the nation’s green spaces and this policy will protect Green Belt land and countryside. Traveller sites are an inappropriate development on Green Belt land and the new guidance 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.
The new measures continue the Government’s policy of abolishing top-down targets set by central government. Previously the Government has abolished the architecture of regional planning tiers through the Localism Act to prevent any more regional strategies being created and set out measures in the Localism Act to provide stronger enforcement powers for local authorities to tackle unauthorised developments and abuse of retrospective planning permission.
The new planning policy also gives councils the freedom and responsibility to determine the right level of traveller site provision in their area, in consultation with local communities, while ensuring fairness in the planning system.
The result of these changes will reduce tensions between settled and traveller communities whilst enabling provision of accommodation from which travellers can access education, health, welfare and employment infrastructure.
Mr 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."
The new policy forms part of a broader package, including changes to planning law to limit retrospective planning applications for any form of unauthorised development and the provision of incentives for new and refurbished traveller sites, which will deliver a better balance between site provision and enforcement.
The Government has also been looking at the inequalities faced by traveller groups and will shortly be publishing a report from the Ministerial Working Group
Have your say on this story using the comment section below