Following consultation last year, the Government has published updated policy guidance for the determination of planning application and appeals for gypsy and traveller sites.
The new guidance "Planning Policy for traveller sites" (PPTS 2015) is effective for all applications and appeals determined after the 31st August 2015.
On the same day the DCLG issued revised guidance (ministerial statement) relating to Traveller sites, Green Belt protection and intentional unauthorised development. The ministerial statement is a material consideration for any application or appeal lodged after the 31st August 2015.
The revised PPTS on first review would appear to have only minor differences to the 2012 document it replaces. However the Government's intention is clear that enhanced protection is now afforded to specially designated areas (AONB, Green Belt etc) and most importantly the lack of a five year supply of deliverable sites will no longer trigger a presumption in favour of consent. This is a significant change which should provide local authorities with the necessary policy protection to refuse applications within important landscape areas and the green belt.
Paragraph 25 of the PPTS requires that local authorities very strictly limit new traveller site development in open countryside. It remains to be seen how local authorities, appeal inspectors or the courts will define very in such cases, but again it strengthens the local authorities power to seek to resists inappropriate development outside of settlement boundaries
The glossary to the PPTS provides guidance to local authorities upon the assessment of the status of gypsies and travellers requiring that authorities assess whether the applicants for gypsy and traveller site are gypsies and travellers within the meaning of the PPTS. Planning authorities and/or appeal inspectors will thus need to assess whether the applicants/appellants meet the criteria and live or previously lived a nomadic lifestyle and whether the applicants/appellants have the intention of living a nomadic lifestyle in the future.
David Jones Head of Planning at Evans Jones Ltd, commented:
"The revised guidance should provide authorities with the necessary power to resist development within specially protected areas and provide enhanced protection for open countryside locations.
This should help to redress the current imbalance between applications for traveller sites and applications for new housing, with the former having a much lower bar to cross to secure consent, the previous PPTS certainly created strange anomalies which has contributed to the settled communities concern that planning policy for traveller sites did not contain adequate 'teeth' to control what many consider to be inappropriate development in valued countryside locations.
The DCLG letter of 31st August provides enhanced protection for the Green Belt whilst also requiring decision takers (for all traveller applications irrespective of land designation) to have regard as a material consideration to the actions of an applicant who has intentionally occupied a site or commenced development without planning permission. It will be interesting to see how this is interpreted in practice and what weight is attached to such unauthorised development."
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