Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper published new guidance on planning and enforcement to address the shortage of authorised sites and strengthen enforcement against the problem sites that can cause real distress for local communities.
Three quarters of Gypsy and Traveller caravans are on authorised sites and many have good relationships with neighbouring communities.
However there remain too many unauthorised sites which can cause huge problems and difficulties for local residents and for Gypsies and Travellers, especially on sites where there is anti-social behaviour.
That is why we need stronger enforcement against problem sites as well as action by local authorities to identify appropriate alternative sites and address the significant shortage in site provision.
The new Task Group will draw together the Local Government Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers and other agencies to address the wide variations in the use of enforcement powers and champion best practice. It will monitor the operation of the new Temporary Stop Notices, introduced in March 2005, which have been used successfully by some local authorities, such as North West Leicestershire District Council, to prevent the development of unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller sites, but not used by other areas with problem sites. The Task Group will examine the difficulties some local agencies face in implementing effective enforcement.
The Government will also consult the group on proposals to strengthen Temporary Stop Notices where alternative sites are available. This could involve giving stronger and swifter planning enforcement powers to local authorities who have identified alternative provision. The Task Group will act as expert advisers to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Office, on further measures to strengthen enforcement, where there is alternative site provision.
There has been a growing shortage of authorised sites since the duty on local authorities was repealed in 1994. This has meant that in areas without enough authorised sites, Gypsies and Travellers are forced to move from one unauthorised site to another. Under the Housing Act 2004, local authorities will have to assess the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in their area. Guidance on carrying out Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments is also published today.
At the same time, new planning guidance obliges local authorities to do more to identify alternative appropriate sites. The ODPM today confirmedthat local authorities will need to identify appropriate land for Gypsy and Traveller sites through the planning system, to deal with the growing shortage of sites and prevent unauthorised sites in problem locations. This approach to site provision was consulted on last year and has now been confirmed in Planning Circular 01/2006: Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites.
Where more sites are needed, local authorities will be expected to identify appropriate land, working where necessary with neighbouring local authorities and the Regional Assemblies.
Planning intervention powers may be used where local authorities ignore their responsibility under the planning system.
Housing and Planning Minister, Yvette Cooper, said:
'Three quarters of Gypsy and Traveller caravans are on authorised sites. But there are too many problem sites which can cause real distress for local communities. That is why we need stronger enforcement alongside more action from local authorities to identify more appropriate sites. Stronger enforcement and more appropriate sites have to go hand in hand if we are to find a long term solution to the problems some communities face.'
Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears said:
'Unauthorised camping on sensitive sites, such as school playing fields or parks, is totally unacceptable. Police and local authorities are able to move people off these sites swiftly, and we strongly encourage them to use these powers.
'There is one standard of acceptable behaviour in society and all communities should respect this. Both the settled community, and Gypsies and Travellers suffer when anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping, abuse and noise at all hours of the night goes unchecked.
'We have given agencies a range of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour which benefit the whole community and enable them to take a stand against the minority who cause problems.'
Also published today, is new ODPM-Home Office guidance for local authorities and police on enforcement against unauthorised encampments - where Gypsies and Travellers camp on land they do not own. This is the first in a new series aimed at addressing the wide variations in the use of powers by local authorities and police forces across England, and enabling councillors to hold local agencies to account.
Further guidance will be published later this year, covering enforcement against unauthorised developments (where Gypsies and Travellers develop their own land without planning permission), as well as antisocial behaviour, such as verbal abuse and late-night noise, and environmental problems, such as fly-tipping. Together, they will give provide clear instructions on how to use the range of powers available to them.
1. Planning Circular 01/2006: Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites, replaces Circular 01/1994: Gypsy Sites and Planning, which was published in 1994 after the repeal of the duty on local authorities to provide Gypsy and Traveller sites. A new draft circular was consulted on between 21 December 2004 and 18 March 2005, and the final draft confirms that local authorities need to work together and with Regional Planning Bodies to identify appropriate sites for Gypsies and Travellers to meet need. The circular is available at: www.odpm.gov.uk/planning-circulars.
2. Also published today is draft practice guidance for local
authorities: Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments, to help them meet their obligations under the Housing Act 2004 to assess whether more sites are needed in their area, in the same way as they do for bricks and mortar housing. The guidance is available here.
3. The new ODPM-Home Office guidance for local authorities on enforcement against unauthorised encampments, Guide to Effective Use of Enforcement Powers - Part 1: Unauthorised Encampments, is the first in a new series aimed at addressing the wide variations in the use of powers by local agencies across England. Further guides in the series will be published later this year. The guide is available
4. To support local councillors in showing leadership on this issue and ensuring their local authorities deliver stronger enforcement and more authorised sites, the ODPM has published a new quick-guide for councillors, Local Authorities and Gypsies and Travellers: a Guide to Responsibilities and Powers. The booklet is available at: