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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

MP urges local people to take part in traveller consultation exercise

27th April 2011
MP urges local people to take part in traveller consultation exercise

LOCAL MP. Gordon Henderson, is urging people to take part in a Government consultation exercise being held as part of a reform of the planning rules surrounding traveller and Gypsy sites.

The last Labour Government introduced a series of planning changes which undermined local discretion and turned a blind eye to unauthorised development. In doing so, they damaged the integrity of the planning system and worsened community cohesion.

Last week the Department of Communities and Local Government published new proposed planning rules for travellers, in the form of draft new planning guidance. Although this is draft, it has the status of ‘emerging policy’ and can be taken into account now as a material consideration in planning applications. It will revoke John Prescott’s notorious Planning Circular 01/2006.

In conjunction with measures in the Localism Bill, the new planning regime abolishes top-down regional targets. Councils should plan for traveller site provision in a locally-led way, reflecting historic demand. Methodology will be a matter for local discretion.

The new planning guidance strengthens protection of the Green Belt and open countryside. Labour’s guidance on pressuring councils to compulsory purchase land for traveller sites has been deleted. Stronger consideration and weight is now given to the protection of local amenity and the local environment.

The planning guidance will help councils in planning enforcement cases. In addition, the Localism Bill also contains provisions to tackle the abuse of retrospective planning permission. In due course, the Government will also amend secondary legislation to strengthen councils’ powers to issue stop notices.

The Government is also taking measures to support councils in providing suitable, authorised sites. We have secured £60 million of grant funding for traveller sites over the Spending Review period, and the New Homes Bonus will provide a further incentive for site provision.

Mr Henderson said:

“I am delighted that at last something is being done to end what amounted to a two tier planning system, in which travellers were treated differently to the settled community.

“It is good to see that unlike its predecessor the Government is holding a meaningful consultation exercise to enable local people to influence the final guidance before it is issued.

“I would urge as many people as possible to visit the Government website, view the consultation documents and submit their comments. I will be making my own submission urging root and branch reform of the relevant planning rules and the more support I receive from constituents the more my own hand will be strengthened.

“The consultation paper can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1886556, however, anybody who does not have access to the internet can contact my office and we will be able to supply them with a hard copy documents.”

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