Last edited 20 Mar 2016

Controls on traveller development

The National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Policy for Traveller Sites were both published in March 2012.

Annex 1 to Planning Policy for Traveller Sites defines ‘gypsies and travellers’ and ‘travelling showpeople’ for the purposes of the planning policy:

  • Gypsies and travellers means: ‘Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such.’
  • Travelling showpeople means: ‘Members of a group organised for the purposes of holding fairs, circuses or shows (whether or not travelling together as such). This includes such persons who on the grounds of their own or their family’s or dependants’ more localised pattern of trading, educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, but excludes Gypsies and Travellers as defined above.’

Local authorities are responsible for assessing the need for sites and identifying a five-year supply of suitable sites. Local authorities may produce joint development plans on a cross-authority basis to provide more flexibility in identifying sites.

The government suggests that it is committed to applying planning policy equally and fairly to all, however, it is also committed to planning policies that protect sensitive areas and green belt. Ministers say that they are increasingly concerned that insufficient protection is being provided for these areas, and that a small minority of travellers ignore planning rules and occupy land in an unauthorised way.

As a result, on 14 September 2014, the government published a consultation to seek views on proposals to amend national planning policy and Planning Policy for Traveller Sites:

  • To ensure that the planning system applies fairly and equally to both the settled community and travellers.
  • To strengthen protection of sensitive areas and the green belt.
  • To deal with the negative effects of the unauthorised occupation of land.
  • To seek comments on new streamlined planning guidance for travellers which supports local authority assessment of their traveller needs and clarifies where temporary stop notices can be used.
  • To only require local authorities to plan to provide sites for the numbers of travellers they could reasonably expect.

It is also proposed that the words ‘or permanently’ should be removed from the definitions of gypsies and travellers and travelling showpeople so that local authorities only have to plan to meet the need of groups that are genuinely travelling. Other applications would be dealt with in the same way as the settled population.

Housing Minister 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. This will not only tackle the abuse of the system but prevent long drawn-out cases like Dale Farm. Today’s proposed measures go even further, and would end the perverse incentive for councils not to act when travellers ignore planning rules and set up unauthorised sites.’

The consultation closed on 23 November 2014.

On 31 August 2015, the policy was revised to strengthen the position of local planning authorities. Under the new policy, if a local planning authority cannot demonstrate an up-to-date 5 year supply of deliverable sites, this should be a significant material consideration in subsequent planning decision relating to applications for the grant of temporary planning permission. However, the exception to this is where the proposal is on land designated as:

Furthermore, where there is a large-scale unauthorised site that has significantly increased the local need, and the area is subject to strict and special planning constraints, there is no assumption that the local planning authority is required to plan to meet traveller site needs in full.

In addition, any application for a permanent site by someone who does not travel will be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population.

For more information see Revised planning policy for traveller sites.

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