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MP keeps up pressure on unauthorised Gypsy sites

11th September 2010
MP keeps up pressure on unauthorised Gypsy sites

Local MP, Gordon Henderson, has spoken out in Parliament about what he described as “a two-tier planning system” and went on to repeat his complaint that advice issued by the last Labour government to local authorities explicitly gave preferential treatment to Gypsies and travellers.

Mr Henderson made his comments in a parliamentary debate on unauthorised encampments and developments in the countryside, during which a number of MPs from all parts of England expressed concern about the unfair way in which the current planning regulations are being manipulated and abused by a minority of the travelling community.

Mr Henderson said: “In my speech I specifically mentioned the unauthorised sites that have sprung up in the Upchurch area and at Brambledown on the Isle of Sheppey. In the Upchurch, Hartlip, Newington triangle there are at least half a dozen such sites and the site at Brambledown seems to be increasing in size by the day. Local people are rightly outraged that Swale Borough Council seem powerless to take action against these unauthorised sites, whilst seeing members of the settled community who disobey planning laws slapped down immediately.

“To highlight this two-tier planning system I used as an example the ongoing saga of the field opposite the creamtorium in Bobbing on which a planning application for a bungalow was turned down because the development would be detrimental to “an important countryside gap”, only for 18 months later officers to recommend approval for a planning application for a static caravan and touring caravan in the very same field on the grounds that it would not be detrimental to the countryside gap.

“I did emphasise that this idiotic contradiction was not a reflection on Swale Borough Council officers but on the guidance they received from the then government.

“I was delighted to hear from the minister, Andrew Stunell, in his winding up speech in the debate, that the Coalition Government plans to scrap Circular 01/06, which is the root cause of many of the problems, and that ministers are determined to bring fairness back into the planning system.

“I know that Joe Jones, who is the local spokesman for the Gypsy Council, has accused me of using the issue for my own political ends. I have a lot of respect for Joe, who is a good advocate for travelling people, but on this occasion he is talking nonsense.

“This is not about politics, it is about fairness. Our local settled community deserve somebody to represent them too, and that is what I am trying to do. Settled people are not prejudiced against Gypsies, they just want everybody to be treated the same way where planning regulations are concerned.

“If travellers want to put down roots, then let them buy plots at building land prices and apply for planning permission in exactly the same way that members of the settled community have to. It is quite wrong that some travellers abuse the current system by buying up non-development landand installing static caravans on it without planning consent in the certain knowledge that nobody will evict them.”


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