UPDATE 30/03/12 – From Chris Johnson of the Community Law Partnership

“The new law with regard to retrospective planning applications is to come into force on 6th April 2012 so it is vital that anyone who is on land (which has a relevant enforcement notice on it) without permission (or even if they are not on the land) or whose temporary permission has expired gets in an application now if they have not already done so. The application should be accompanied by the necessary fee, a location plan, a design and access statement and the other documents required by the local planning authority. If the local authority serve an enforcement notice after this date your only option will be to appeal that enforcement notice if you have not already made a planning application.

See Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Order 2012/628.

There will be an article on the effects of the Localism Act 2011 in June Legal Action magazine. If in doubt, get advice.”

The Localism Act received Royal Assent on the 15th November, 2011. Different parts of the Act will come into force at different times, with some being bought into force immediately.

The Act is wide ranging, but brings into force two key provisions which will have an immediate effect for Gypsies and Travellers: the abolition of the Regional Strategies and the changes to the law regarding retrospective planning permission.

Abolition of Regional Strategies
Regional Strategies provided planning frameworks in England, including targets for the provision of Gypsy and Traveller pitches within each local authority area. The abolition of the Regional Strategies will mean that Local Authorities will no longer be set targets on how many new Gypsy and Traveller pitches are needed in their area. Instead they will be left to make their own assessment of need. There are real concerns that, left to their own devices, Local Authorities will fail to make sufficient provision or grant planning permission for privately provided sites.
Local Authorities will still have a duty under the 2004 Housing Act requiring them to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers, and Showpeople, and to make adequate provision for them through the planning process. However, the guidance on how they should make these assessments and deliver the pitches needed (Circular 1/2006 Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites) is to be replaced by the weaker, soon to published “Planning for traveller sites”, described by the Government as ‘light-touch guidance’,
Retrospective planning applications
Section 123 of the Localism Act inserts new sections into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 preventing retrospective planning applications where there is already an enforcement notice on the land which covers the subject matter of their proposed application. If there is not such a notice, then a retrospective planning application can still be made.
However, if such an application is made and the local planning authority serves an enforcement notice relating to the application, within the relevant period for determination of the application (normally 8 weeks) then the applicant will not be permitted to appeal that notice. Instead, the applicant should proceed with his or her retrospective application and if necessary, any appeal against the refusal of planning permission.
This part of the Act has not yet come into force and Gypsies or Travellers who own their own land but who don’t have planning permission,should make an application as soon as possible. Those who have temporary permissions should make sure they make a fresh application before the temporary permission comes to an end.
In addition to the abolition of the Regional strategies and the changes to retrospective planning, the Act contains other provisions that may have implications for Gypsies and Travellers. For a fuller explanation of the importance of the Localism Act for Gypsies and Travellers see Chris Johnson’s Travellers’ Times blog.