The Government has revised its special planning policy for Travellers to state that it will only apply to those “who lead a genuine travelling lifestyle”.
Ministers said this would mean that any application for a permanent site, including caravan sites, by someone who does not travel will be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population.
The new policy, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is also intended to shore up Green Belt and other protections.
It states that if a local planning authority cannot demonstrate an up–to-date 5-year supply of deliverable sites, this should be a significant material consideration in any subsequent planning decision when considering applications for the grant of temporary planning permission.
An exception is where the proposal is on land designated as:
sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives;
sites designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
Local Green Space;
an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
within a National Park (or the Broads).
The policy states that inappropriate development is harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved, except in very special circumstances.
“Traveller sites (temporary or permanent) in the Green Belt are inappropriate development,” it says. “Subject to the best interests of the child, personal circumstances and unmet need are unlikely to clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances.”
The revised policy also says: “In exceptional cases, where a local planning authority is burdened by a large-scale unauthorised site that has significantly increased their need, and their area is subject to strict and special planning constraints, then there is no assumption that the local planning authority is required to plan to meet their traveller site needs in full.”
The DCLG claimed the new policy made clear the need to ensure fairness in the system, with planning policy reflecting the requirement that caravan sites should be made available for those who travel permanently.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “I’m determined to ensure fairness in the planning system, so everyone abides by the same rules.
“Today’s new policy strengthens the hand of councils to tackle unauthorised development in their area, ensures all communities are treated equally and that the protection of the Green Belt is enforceable.”
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Unauthorised traveller sites can blight communities, causing misery for their neighbours and creating resentment that planning rules don’t seem to be applied fairly.
“Today’s revised planning policy clearly sets out the protection against unauthorised occupation and that the rules apply fairly to every community equally – no ifs, no buts.”
Garden Court Chambers’ Marc Willers QC, who advises Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, warned on Twitter that the new planning policy was “short-sighted” and bound to result in more unauthorised camping. “To what end?” he said.