Pickles to Introduce ‘Travellers Must Travel’ Policy

Telegraph – This seems to be preannouned now to prempt Lib Dem opposition.  Earlier Telgraph link (now removed) suggested this.

Travellers must prove they are actually “travelling”, under a new Government crackdown to stop gypsies trying to set up camps on the Green Belt.

Under new plans, to be published by the Government next month, travellers would have to prove they have a “nomadic” lifestyle to qualify for help in the planning system.

Experts said that this would in practice mean showing that they had been on the move for two months every year, possibly by moving camp to horse fairs.

The changes have emerged days after the High Court ruled that gypsies will no longer automatically be banned from setting up camp on Green Belt land because ministers had been unfairly discriminating against travellers.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had been wrong to introduce a policy of ministers personally reviewing and rejecting all bids made by gypsies in 2013 in attempt to prevent a repeat of controversies like the Dale Farm fiasco in Essex.

New draft planning rules state that “for planning purposes the Government believes a traveller should be someone who travels”.

They add: “Travellers who have given up travelling permanently should be treated in the same way as the settled community, especially regarding sites in sensitive locations, such as in the Green Belt.”

Councils are obligated in planning rules to provide land to house traveller communities.

The Housing Act 2004 also requires housing authorities regularly too undertake regular assessments of the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers.

However the new nomadic qualification could dramatically cut the number of people who are seen as travellers under planning rules.

There are an estimated 300,000 gypsies and travellers in the UK, of whom only about 40 per cent regularly travel for two months or more every year.

Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government secretary, said the changes would introduce more fairness into the planning system so that more people are treated equally.

He said: “The public want to see fair play in the planning system, with planning applications being decided on the basis of their affect on the environment, not who the applicant is.

“It is for local and national elected representatives to determine planning policy. This Government will stand firm in allowing councils to safeguard the Green Belt which prevents urban sprawl and stops the open countryside being covered in concrete.”

Joseph Jones, a spokesman for the Gypsy Council, said that Mr Pickles should have to resign after the ruling.

He said: “This is a very, very divisive issue – they are saying if you live on a gypsy site and you don’t go travelling every year, you lose your gypsy status.

The idea that gypsies or travellers are nomadic is nonsense. Gypsies and travellers have always travelled for work – and that is not a nomadic way of life.”

Mr Jones said that life was made harder because councils are “closing not opening” transit sites across the country.

He said that some travellers could qualify by visiting the horse fairs that are held most weekends between April and October every year.

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