Wealden MP, Charles Hendry, has welcomed the Government’s new planning policy for traveller sites. The reforms aim to provide a better balance between providing fair and equal treatment for travellers, while respecting the interests of the settled community.
Mr Hendry said councils would be able to plan for traveller site provision in a locally-led way with the precise approach a matter for local discretion.
The new guidance strengthened protection of the Green Belt and open countryside, he said. “It introduces clear and unambiguous statements that ‘traveller sites (temporary or permanent) in the Green Belt are inappropriate development’ and ‘local planning authorities should strictly limit new traveller site development in open countryside’.
“Stronger consideration and weight is now given to the protection of local amenity and the local environment,” he said.
“The government will not tolerate the clear abuse of the planning system, as has been from cases of travellers moving on to sites over bank holiday weekends. The planning guidance will help councils in planning enforcement cases against unauthorised development.
“In addition, the Localism Act gives councils new powers to tackle the intentional abuse of retrospective planning permission (whilst still allowing for the correction of innocent mistakes by householders). “
Councils will be supported in providing suitable, authorised sites, with a £60 million of grant funding for traveller sites over the Spending Review period, and the New Homes Bonus provides a further incentive for authorised site provision.
Mr Hendry added: “We have seen too much abuse of the old planning laws and it could take councils, like Wealden, some years and thousands of pounds in legal costs, to remove settlements from locations which were evidently unsuitable. It had seemed that there was one set of rules for the majority of the population and another set for traveller communities and that could not possibly have been right or fair.
“I believe the reforms will strengthen community cohesion by ensuring a sense of fairness in the planning system and help avoid the negative stories that undermine the reputation of travellers as a whole.”