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New Gypsies and Travellers policy gives LAs some difficult judgements to make but offers steer on green belt use

Date: 11/9/2015

The government in issuing its new planning policy for Gypsies and Travellers, has insisted it will ensure fairness in the planning system. However, POS beieves LPAs will face practical difficulties in interpreting the new approach, particularly the new definition of 'traveller'.

  • The planning policy document states that, in determining whether persons are Gypsies and Travellers for the purposes of planning policy, local authorities should consider issues including "whether there is an intention of living a nomadic habit of life in the future, and if so, how soon and in what circumstances."

Catriona Riddell, the POS Stratgeic Planning Subject Specialist, suggested to Planning magazine that determining whether a family had ceased travelling permanently would be a difficult judgement call for local authorities. She said she found it difficult to see how a local authority could prove that a traveller family no longer had any intention of travelling. For example, she said, if a family had temporarily ceased to travel so that its children could go to school and told a local authority it was their intention to travel again in the future, the council "would have to take that at face value - how could they demonstrate differently?"

Nevertheless, Riddell told Planning that the new policy document offers a useful steer for local planning authorities wishing to take responsibility for meeting the needs of Gypsies and Travellers through the local plan process.

  • The policy document states that, if a local authority wishes to make an exceptional limited alteration to the green belt boundary to meet a 'specific, identified need for a traveller site, it should so so only through the plan-making process and not in response to a planning application'.

Riddell suggested that the guidance gives authorities a "clear push" that this should be doe through "inset sites" - small sites taken out of the green belt for specific purposes. "That's the way it's going to go," she said.

Catriona Riddell.jpg Catriona Riddell

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