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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Unauthorised Traveller Development

15th June 2010
Unauthorised Traveller Development

Local MP, Gordon Henderson, has taken his battle for fairness in the planning system to Parliament. Mr Henderson has been pressing for action to stop the practice by some travellers of buying agriculture land at rock bottom prices and then setting up traveller sites without first obtaining planning permission.

Because of planning guidance introduced by the previous Labour Government, local authorities, such as Swale Borough Council, found their hands tied when they tried to take enforcement action to close down such sites.

Councils have effectively been prevented from evicting travellers from sites for which no planning permission was originally granted by an edict from Whitehall obliging them to find alternative sites before enforcement action could be taken.

Councils also had to follow guidance which gave priority to gypsy families when considering planning applications for building on green field sites, something that Mr Henderson has long argued was unfair to the settled community.

Now Mr Henderson has joined fellow MPs in signing an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling on the Government to ensure that settled and traveller communities are treated equally and even-handedly in the planning process.

Mr Henderson said:
“The current planning laws are totally unfair because they discriminate against settled communities and allow travellers to cock-a-snook at local authorities. We have a number of traveller sites in this constituency that have sprung up on land on which settled people would be refused permission to build.

“I have spoken with ministers about this and I am quietly confident that something will be done to stop this abuse and make the system fairer. However, until we see action my colleagues and I will continue to put pressure on the Government by raising this matter through the use of questions in the House and EDMs.”

The EDM read: “That this House notes with concern that unauthorised development can currently be undertaken by travellers who can exploit delays in the planning enforcement system; believes that this problem can be tackled if the concept of retrospective planning permission is limited and councils are given stronger powers to deal with unauthorised development; and calls on the Government to ensure that all settled and traveller communities are treated equally and even-handedly in the planning process.”

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