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Planning policy for Gypsy and Traveller sites

The planning policy for Traveller sites

The national planning guidance set out in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites is to be read alongside the general policies of the National Planning Policy Framework.

The guidance, first issued in 2012, places a requirement on local authorities to set pitch targets for Gypsies and Travellers and plot (yard) targets for Travelling Showpeople which address the likely permanent and transit site accommodation needs of their area. To set those pitch and plot targets local authorities should prepare and maintain an up to date understanding of accommodation need using a robust evidence base.

In addition to setting pitch targets, local authorities are required to identify a supply of specific deliverable sites, sufficient to provide five years’ worth of sites against the locally set targets. There is also a requirement to plan for a further ten years’ supply of sites.

Planning Policy for Traveller Sites was updated in August 2015. It amends the planning definition of Travellers to limit it to those who have a nomadic habit of life, meaning that where someone has given up travelling permanently they should be treated no differently from the settled population. 

Housing Definition used in GTAA (2013)

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. (Planning Policy for Traveller Sites, Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), March 2012).

Planning policy definition August 2015

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, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such.

Further restrictions

It also restricts circumstances in which temporary permission for Gypsy sites may be given in the Green Belt. It updates policy so that a lack of an up to date five-year supply of deliverable sites is not a significant material consideration in planning decisions involving the grant of temporary planning permission in sensitive areas, such as land designated as Green Belt.

Councils are now expected to "very strictly limit" new Traveller sites in open countryside.

The Council's approach

The Government guidance ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ states: "In assembling the evidence base necessary to support their planning approach, local planning authorities should: … use a robust evidence base to establish accommodation needs to inform the preparation of local plans and make planning decisions."

The Council’s Local Plan (Part One) Policy SOC 4 Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpersons’ accommodation sets out the criteria for Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpersons’ accommodation. This identifies a need in the borough for a further 46 permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches, 13 Travelling Showperson plots and between 5-10 Gypsy and Travelling transit sites that was identified in the ‘Cheshire Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment’ (GTAA), March 2014. A revised GTAA is being prepared to take account of the Government's change in definition. This evidence base will be taken into account in the Traveller Development Plan Document (DPD) which will seek to identify sites for Travellers to meet need. 

Transit sites

Transit sites are permanent sites intended for temporary use by residents. The length of stay generally varies between 28 days and 13 weeks, then you are unable to return to that site for a further three to six months. This requirement would be written into the Licence Agreement under Mobile Homes Act 1994.

How would a transit site help?

If we provide a transit site, it would allow the police to access certain powers, s62a-e Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

This allows the police to direct the Travellers from the land they are encamped on, to a suitable pitch on a relevant caravan site (in the ownership of the local authority) within the same local authority area (transit site). If they refuse the pitch, as directed, they must leave the borough and cannot return for three months.

If the Travellers do not leave when directed to do so under Section 62a of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, or if they return to the district within three months after being directed, they are committing an offence.

A local example of this is the transit site in Halton, when an encampment arrives they were dealt with within a couple of hours. Halton’s encampment numbers have greatly reduced since the introduction of a transit site. There were 20 in 2016 compared to 83 in 2005.

The next stage

What matters can be considered through the planning process? 

  • Residential amenity (impact on neighbours) - could include issues such as overlooking, loss of daylight, overbearing impact, noise and disturbance
  • Visual impact – is it in keeping with the surrounding area or will it cause unacceptable landscape harm? Other issues could relate to highways, availability of land and / or there are better alternative site options.
  • Relevant government policies (including the National Planning Policy Framework) and Local Plan policies, such as sustainability of location, countryside / landscape protection, high quality agricultural land, flooding, wildlife / protected species.

What cannot be considered as a planning matter?

Planning is concerned with how land is used. The intended user of a development is not a planning consideration.

Other issues that cannot be taken into consideration for the purpose of plan making are property prices or value of land, or the rights to a view over another person’s land. Comments that are considered racist or offensive will be deemed inadmissible.

How can I make sure any comments I make are not regarded as racist?

The Council cannot accept comments that may be considered racist under the Equality Act including generalisations, stereotypes or negative perceptions of race, ethnicity or culture. In this context, Gypsies and Travellers are racial minorities. Generally a racist comment would be one which includes words, phrases or comments which are likely: 

  • To be offensive to a particular racial or ethnic group
  • To be racially abusive, insulting or threatening
  • To apply pressure to discriminate on racial grounds
  • To stir up racial hatred or contempt. 

The Council has a legal duty not to accept any racist material. In any case, comments should be based on valid planning matters for the Council to be able to take them properly into account in future decision making. 

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