The Government is considering the case for further improvements to both planning policy and practice guidance to strengthen Green Belt protection from both housing schemes and Traveller developments.
That prospect emerged in a written Commons statement by Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis. He told MPs: “We also want to consider the case for changes to the planning definition of ‘travellers’ to reflect whether it should only refer to those who actually travel and have a mobile or transitory lifestyle.
“We are open to representations on these matters and will be launching a consultation in due course.”
He pointed out that the Coalition’s planning policy was clear that “both temporary and permanent traveller sites are inappropriate development in the green belt and that planning decisions should protect green belt land from such inappropriate development”.
He reminded Parliament that the Secretary of State’s policy position on unmet need, whether for Traveller sites or for conventional housing, was that this was “unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm” and would not constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
The minister re-emphasised that point for both local planning authorities and planning inspectors as a material consideration in their planning decisions.
The minister said that for the past six months the Communities Secretary had been looking at the way policy was being applied on the ground by recovering more appeals involving Traveller projects in Green Belt locations.
He said: “The Secretary of State remains concerned about the extent to which planning appeal decisions are meeting the Government’s clear policy intentions, particularly as to whether sufficient weight is being given to the importance of green belt protection. Therefore, he intends to continue to consider for recovery appeals involving traveller sites in the green belt.”
23 January 2014