The government have today announced a twelve week consultation period for the draft Planning Policy Statement for Traveller sites. This new policy will replace circular 01/06: Planning for Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites and circular 04/07: Planning for travelling showpeople. Before these policies were put in place over 90% of planning applications for Gypsy and Traveller sites were refused at first hearing, compared to just 20% of non-Gypsy or Traveller applications. 
Here’s what Eric Pickles has to say about his new proposals:

“The Government is committed to a better deal for both traveller and settled communities within the planning system. It is important that local planning authorities are given the freedom to plan for the future of their communities. However, the current planning policy for traveller sites does not work. There is a widespread perception that the system is unfair and that it is easier for one group of people to gain planning permission, particularly on sensitive Green Belt land. This creates resentment and damages community cohesion. In addition, the top-down housing and traveller site targets that were imposed on local councils set communities against development of all kinds.

A new approach is needed. The Government wants to see fair play in the planning system – everyone being treated equally and even-handedly. We will align planning policy for traveller sites much more closely with the policies for other forms of housing and in doing so will provide greater environmental protection. We will put planning for traveller sites back in the hands of local planning authorities – they are best placed to know the needs of their communities, not unelected regional bodies.

Our new planning policy for traveller sites sits within a broader package of reforms to decentralise the planning system, make it fair and return powers to local communities. Abuse of the planning system undermines faith in it and we will not tolerate this from anyone. Instead we will reward those who play by the rules. The Localism Bill introduced measures to limit opportunities for retrospective planning permission in relation to any form of unauthorised development, to increase the powers that local planning authorities have to enforce against a range of breaches of planning control and to ensure local planning authorities have greater accountability to the people they serve and that decisions are decentralised to the most local level possible. Our new planning policy for traveller sites also sits with a broader package of policies affecting travellers that are set out in this consultation document. Our new policy is fair.

In line with our broader planning reforms to streamline the planning system, the new policy is also a much shorter, clearer and less cumbersome document that will be easier for councils and members of the public to use effectively.

I look forward to reading your responses to the questions set out in this consultation.

The consultation document is available here.