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Prime Minister David Cameron today put his weight behind local MP Gordon Henderson

17th November 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron today put his weight behind local MP Gordon Henderson

Prime Minister David Cameron today put his weight behind local MP Gordon Henderson’s campaign to change planning laws to ensure that they no longer give Travellers special treatment.

Mr Henderson claims that the current rules are being abused by Travellers who buy land on which development would not usually be allowed, move onto the site before local authorities know what is happening, put down hard-standings and install static and mobile homes on the site in the knowledge that eventually they will be granted retrospective planning permission to stay.

Mr Henderson pointed to the recent decision by Swale Borough Council to grant planning permission for travellers to remain on a site in Oak Lane, Upchurch as evidence that the strategy succeeds. He used the opportunity of Prime Minister’s Questions today to ask David Cameron if he would scrap Planning Circular 01/06 which he believes is at the root of the present problem because it explicitly gives Gypsies and Travellers preferential treatment when submitting planning applications for development on sensitive sites.

The exchange went as follows:-

Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister take this opportunity to assure my constituents in Sittingbourne and Sheppey that planning circular 01/06 will be scrapped in the near future, and that Travelling communities will then be treated in the same way as settled communities with regard to planning law?

The Prime Minister: I am not fully up to date with that particular planning circular, but I reassure my hon. Friend that, as I have said here before, Traveller communities should be treated in a similar way to other communities, in that they cannot have planning permission retrospectively granted when they have not obeyed the rules. That is not right. Everyone should obey the law.

Mr Henderson said: “Settled people across my constituency are fed up to the back teeth with a planning system that explicitly gives one set of rules for travellers and another set of rules for everybody else. The root of the problem is Circular 01/06 and I was told way back in the summer that the Coalition Government was going to scrap it, but nothing much has happened since.

“The issue came to a head again recently when the unauthorised site in Oak Lane was granted planning permission. I am very concerned about that decision because I think it extends a very dangerous invitation for other people to try exactly the same trick of turning cheap agricultural land into expensive development land.

“I was lucky enough today to catch the eye of the Speaker during Prime Minister’s Questions and decided to ask a question about Circular 01/06. I was not surprised that David Cameron was not familiar with the name, but his answer certainly showed that he was well aware of its affects and I was delighted with his backing for my view that Travellers should not be able to obtain retrospective planning permission.

“I hope that planning officers on Swale Borough Council will consider the PM’s words very carefully and not grant retrospective permission to any of the other unauthorised sites we have in Sittingbourne and Sheppey.”

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