Following criticism from the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) that the Government’s plans will result in a significant under-supply of pitches for travelling communities (read more here), grumblings have also been levelled at specific provisions for green belt land.
The traveller guidance policy, which has been released parallel to the National Planning Policy, has condensed a 54 page document down to just 8 pages, following a trend of Government to simplify red tape and minimise bureaucracy.
In the new document, the Government states that traveller sites in the Green Belt are ‘inappropriate development’ and should only be approved in ‘very special circumstances’. It goes on to say that Green Belt boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances, to accommodate a traveller site already inset into the Green Belt for example, and that this should be dealt with through the plan-making process, not as a response to a planning application.
Bearing in mind most traveller sites are concentrated in the Home Counties of Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Surrey, which all overlap the green belt surrounding London, fears have been raised that this will further limit the availability of traveller sites. The response of these counties to the £47m government funding reinforces this, with only 4% of the total taken up by these locations in the face of potentially difficult planning processes and a relationship with travellers marred by generations of struggling over illegal sites.
Most of the funding is going to councils in the Midlands, South West Yorkshire and the North East, so the future might see an exodus of travellers northwards and relief for authorities like the long suffering Basildon District Council.