News story

New rules will offer stronger protection against unauthorised occupation

New policy strengthens the hand of councils to tackle unauthorised development and ensures all communities are treated equally.

green belt

Special planning rules designed to support England’s travelling community will only apply to those who lead a genuine travelling lifestyle, under changes that came into force from today (31 August 2015).

The measure is part of a wider crackdown on unauthorised occupation of sites, to ensure all communities are required to abide by the same planning rules.

Under a new package of reforms, there will also be greater protection for the countryside and Green Belt, while councils will continue to have a range of powers at their disposal to tackle the illegal encampments that make their law-abiding neighbours’ lives a misery.

Tackling unauthorised development

Between 2000 and 2009 there was a 4-fold increase in the numbers of caravans on unauthorised sites – creating tensions between travellers and the settled populations.

Today’s new policy makes 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.

In addition, it will mean 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 – rather than being considered under policies relating to travellers.

Today’s changes also tackle the current situation, where councils without an up-to-date supply of caravan sites can find that protections of the Green Belt can be eroded.

The new planning policy ensures this is no longer the case where proposed developments are in protected areas – such as Green Belt land, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks.

In addition, where previously councils were required to provide sites for people evicted from large-scale unauthorised encampments that happened to be in their area, like Dale Farm, this will be removed.

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.

Further Information

Councils and the police already have a range of powers available to deal with unauthorised development.

Brandon Lewis and the Rt Hon Mike Penning MP wrote to councils, police commissioners and police forces earlier this year to remind them of this and the guidance available on tackling problems.

The new planning policy has been published today.

It includes:

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.

The exception is where the proposal is on land designated as:

  • Green Belt
  • 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)

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. 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.

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.

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Published 31 August 2015