Why produce this two days before the NPPF is published, and uniquely for the DCLG on a Sunday! (I have a theory see below) It could easily have been included in the NPPF and on one page not seven (as we did in our alternative draft). This simply reinforces the impression that travellers are being singled out. Whay is this one group and one group alone being given a specific separate policy document? Suspect on legal advice as the travellers groups were rightly furious that they would not have got to comment on the structure of policy proposed, unlike any other group, and so leading to likely successful legal challenge. Expect the separate policy to go at the first NPPF revision.
this policy comes into effect at the same time as the National Planning Policy Framework. The new planning policy for traveller sites should be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Framework.
By the way it does not say when it comes into force!!!! Is this subject to the official secrets act? So no decisions on any G&T application on Monday possible then.
Government issues new planning guidance on traveller sites
Local Government Minister Bob Neill today published a radically streamlined planning policy that will ensure fair treatment of travellers in the planning system while respecting the interests of the settled community.
Condensing the previous 54 pages of traveller site guidance into just eight pages, the new policy puts the provision of sites back into the hands of local councils, in consultation with local communities.
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.
Notes to editors
1. The full planning policy for traveller sites can be found here:www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/planningpolicytravellers.
2. The Government’s key aims in respect of traveller sites are:
- that local planning authorities should make their own assessment of need for the purposes of planning;
- to ensure that local planning authorities, working collaboratively, develop fair and effective strategies to meet need through the identification of land for sites;
- to encourage local planning authorities to plan for sites over a reasonable timescale;
- that plan-making and decision-taking should protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development;
- to promote more private traveller site provision while recognising that there will always be those travellers who cannot provide their own sites;
- that plan-making and decision-taking should aim to reduce the number of unauthorised developments and encampments and make enforcement more effective;
- for local planning authorities to ensure their local plan includes fair, realistic and inclusive policies;
- to increase the number of traveller sites in appropriate locations with planning permission, to address under-provision and maintain an appropriate level of supply;
- to reduce tensions between settled and traveller communities in plan-making and planning decisions;
- to enable provision of suitable accommodation from which travellers can access education, health, welfare and employment infrastructure; and
- for local planning authorities to have due regard to the protection of local amenities and the local environmental.
3. The Department has previously announced the inclusion of traveller sites in the New Homes Bonus to reward councils that deliver additional sites. This means that councils will get financial benefits for building authorised traveller sites where they are needed. The Department has also secured £60 million Traveller Pitch Funding to help councils and other registered providers build new traveller sites. Successful bids totalling £47 million were announced in January, helping to provide over 750 new and refurbished pitches for travellers.
Ok the low down on the policy. It includes the mention of the need for inclusive policy, good, it was a banned word in the draft NPPF so a good sign. It also retains an evidence based and collaborative approach, including across LPA boundaries.
Even better news:
Local planning authorities should, in producing their Local Plan:
a) identify and update annually, a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of sites against their locally set
b) identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, for years six to ten and, where possible, for years 11-15
c) consider production of joint development plans that set targets on a cross-authority basis, to provide more flexibility in identifying sites, particularly if a local planning authority has special or strict planning constraints across its area (local planning authorities have a duty to
cooperate on planning issues that cross administrative boundaries)
d) relate the number of pitches or plots to the circumstances of the specific size and location of the site and the surrounding population’s size and density
e) protect local amenity and environment
Note it gives no guidance whatsoever on how to assess need – a ‘wild west’ outcome is likely. Also the wording gives a clue as to the wording of the five year supply rule in the final NPPF and is vastly better the draft NPPF, no 20%, no nonsense about a ‘willing developer’ . It bears similarlities to wording out forward in out alternative draft in parts. However in referring to only ‘broad locations’ for growth in years 6-10 we are back to the bad old days of local plans with only 5 years housing supply allocated which quickly become out of date.
The policy on development in the countryside is also completely different than that breifed by Eric Pickles yesterday in the Telegraph, suggesting he hasnt actually read it. Bad news for the NPPF.
When assessing the suitability of sites in rural or semi-rural settings, local planning authorities should ensure that the scale of such sites does not dominate the nearest settled community….
Local planning authorities should strictly limit new traveller site development in open countryside that is away from existing settlements or outside areas allocated in the development plan. Local planning authorities should ensure that sites in rural areas respect the scale of, and do not dominate the nearest settled community, and avoid placing an undue pressure on the local infrastructure.
What does ‘away from ‘ mean vague, gives a clear indication of the wording onm the open countryside in the final NPPF. Does it mean one or two fields away? This would be preferential for a travellers site to avoid anger from settled community but unacceptable for a housing site. The wording works for travellers sites, as we are unlikely to see applications for 100s of pitches 360 degrees around villages, but we would for housing. If this is the final NPPF wording is half a victory, definitely a big concession
As is the policy on Green Belt which adds in the crucial ‘in very special circumstances’ which would make it legal. Was this poor precis by the Daily Telegraph or a swift last minute correction in response to concerns yesterday – who knows, guess the former.
Also the mentioning of rural exceptions sites is a pretty strong hint that the final NPPF will retain this. Ironic because it is irrelevent for travellers sites as pretty much every site is affordable / an exception, and as sites are allowed in rural areas what is it an exception to?
Rightly it includes an up front statement certain to be included in the final NPPF
Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan , unless material considerations indicate otherwise
Also note the much better and legally correct distinction between the development plan and local plan in the footnote.
There is also a big hint of the final #NPPF here
When considering applications, local planning authorities should attach weight to the following matters:
a) effective use of previously developed (brownfield), untidy or derelict land
But sadly this exhbits several sympomns of the incompetent drafting disease of the draft NPPF. ‘Effective’ not ‘efficient’? wrong word. Effective for brownfield but not greenfield, its it ok then for greenfield sites to be used ineffectively? A site could only be used ineffectively if it is not used for what is intended – which again shows how a logic fail has occurred here.
Untidy, so ill get permission to develop on greenfield sites then if they are untidy. Ok cool lets make my garden, now a greenfield site of course, as untidy as possible, or a site in the countryside. Since when was tidiness ever a material planning consideration. Pointed question needed at DCLG questions on this one.
Finally ‘or derelict’ which implies derelict non previously developed sites are ok. Errr like former sand digging pits on the coast, or abandoned farms, or falling down agricultural buildings – it should say ‘in particular’ that would make sense.
The section on Implementation (for Implementation read Transition) also gives a clue at what the period will be in para 28. 12 months. The Pickles/Osborne Compromise.
Overall apart from the silly wording from some sections of the NPPF is not so bad. Very clear that sites have to be accessible and not remote or tucked next to motorways. Would give it eight out of 10. Would have got 10 out of ten if it was clearer on the method for calculating need. This will now be fought out at every EIP in the country with local authorities trying to justify there homebaked manipulations downwards from the previous official GTAA method. It is unclear for example if travellers ‘in their area’ includes unauthorised sites or travellers forced to live in bricks and morter because of lack of pitches. In particular it should have addressed the issue of overconcentration of need in some places (e.g. Basildon) and the need to disperse that to other nearby authorities than have disgrafully fallen short on their obligations in the past – like Brentwood (oh again who is Mp for Brentwood?).
Note also no ban on CPO.