30th January 2012

Letter from Forum Member to Eric Pickles MP re: Proposed Gypsy and Traveller Sites

From: Leslie Deller

Sent: 02 December 2011 14:03

To: 'eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk'

Cc: 'tobias.ellwood.mp@parliment.uk'

Subject: Travellers

Dear MP's,

As I am sure you are probably aware Baker and Associates have been commissioned on behalf of the various Dorset authorities to investigate the provision of gypsy and travellers sites in their area. The result of this study has produced three possible sites in my locality which are situated on the green belt. As you will appreciate this has resulted in great anger as the green belt is one of the last remaining areas left in Bournemouth which the residents feel should be protected against any development, whether it is for gypsy’s and travellers or for any other development.

When your party came to power a lot was made of the abolition of the RSS, which we welcomed as it proposed the building of 1,500 homes on our green belt. Also, the following statement has been made,' The Government believes that local planning authorities are best placed to know the needs of their community, not unelected regional bodies, and it will put planning for travellers sites back in their hands'. However, Bournemouth Council could be forced to adopt one or both of these sites against its wished and the wishes of the voters and residents. This is because the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is still in place which requires Bournemouth to provide a site for transit purposes within its boundaries otherwise it is still very difficult and expensive to remove unauthorised encampments.

In my view Bournemouth should be able to move gypsy and travellers to sites elsewhere in Dorset where more suitable and less damaging sites can be provided. It would only be if, in the unlikely event, that no other suitable sites in Dorset can be found should the building on any green belt land anywhere in Dorset be considered.

Please can you therefore let me know if there is any proposal to make changes so the Bournemouth Council would be free to make a proper decision on the provision of gypsy and travellers sites and not forced to do so as a consequence of the existing law.

As we have an Area Forum meeting early in the new year when this matter will be discussed as the main/only item on the agenda I would be grateful for a response so that we can accurately inform the residents of the Governments position

Kind regards,

Mr Leslie Deller

TMSTH Forum Committee Member

Communities Local Government Logo

Our Ref:PDC94/10/5; 72/043942/11

23 January 2012

Dear Mr Deller

Thank you for your letter of 2 December to the Secretary of State, asking whether any changes are imminent that would allow your local planning authority to provide traveller sites outside its boundaries. You explain that, as matters stand, local planning authorities are compelled to adopt encampment sites - even though the land is in Green Belt - so as to accommodate travellers who have set up unauthorised camps. I have been asked to respond on his behalf, and I am very sorry for the delayed reply. The Government recognises that there is concern about unauthorised traveller encampments and the effect they have on local communities. As our recent consultation document said: 'There is a perception among many that currently policy treats traveller sites more favourably than it does other forms of housing and that it is easier for one group of people to gain planning permission particularly on sensitive Green Belt land. This has led people to believe that the system is unfair and this has led to tension and undermined community cohesion'.

You mention unauthorised encampments. The Government wants to see fair play and to avoid conflict between settled and traveller communities. The police and local authorities already have a range of powers, primarily under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, that enable them to take enforcement action against unauthorised encampments. As your letter points out, under those powers travellers found to be unlawfully encamped can be removed and directed onto vacant pitches on alternative sites without obtaining specific planning permission to encamp in the alternative location.

Therefore, the Government's overarching policy objective is fair and effective provision of authorised sites for travellers, in appropriate places, to facilitate the traditional and nomadic way of life of these groups whilst respecting the interests of the settled community. We want to enable local planning authorities to make their own assessment of housing need; to facilitate planning for sites over a reasonable timescale; to protect Green Belt from development; and to reduce tensions between settled and traveller communities in relation to planning.

Under the Localism Act, it will be possible finally to abolish regional housing strategies, making local planning authorities solely responsible for assessing housing need in their areas, including the needs of traveller communities, and deciding how and where such need should be addressed. Moreover, under the new duty to cooperate, neighbouring authorities could discuss and plan future traveller site provision together.

Following consultation on a new planning policy statement for traveller sites earlier this year, we intend to introduce new policy as soon as possible, to replace Circular 01/06 (Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites). Meanwhile, however, this Circular remains in force.

The Government is continuing to work on the new arrangements and new policies, including incentives to the local authority through the New Homes Bonus scheme, to deliver appropriate numbers of sites and a better balance between site provision and enforcement. We have secured £60m funding to help councils and other registered providers build new traveller sites.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Scott