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Government cuts protections for travellers to tackle unauthorised sites

The government plans to introduce new measures to crack down on unauthorised travellers’ sites.

Under the current system, if a council wants to move travellers on from an unauthorised site set up without planning permission, it must ‘meet the needs’ of the travellers being moved on. This can be costly and often means no action is taken.

The new measures change the rules so that there is no assumption that councils facing this problem in their area would have to plan to meet needs that only arise because of large-scale unauthorised sites.

Instead, councils in this situation would simply be required to plan to provide sites for the numbers of travellers they could reasonably expect.

In addition it proposes that the definition of travellers in planning law will be changed so that local authorities would only be asked to plan ahead to meet the needs of those who lead a ‘genuine travelling lifestyle’.

This would mean any application for a permanent site by someone who has stopped physically travelling would be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population – rather than be considered under policies relating to travellers.

Housing minister Brandon Lewis MP said: “We will not sit back and allow people who bypass the law to then benefit from the protection it can offer.

“We have already strengthened the powers that councils have to enforce planning rules and take action against breaches which fuel community tensions. This will not only tackle the abuse of the system but prevent long drawn-out cases like Dale Farm.

“Today’s proposed measures go even further, and would end the perverse incentive for councils not to act when travellers ignore planning rules and set up unauthorised sites.”

A government spokesperson said: “The majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens who abide by planning rules: today’s proposed measures would ensure travellers who play by the rules are put on an equal footing, giving them the same chance of having a safe place to live and bring up their children as anyone else.”

The government announced other measures to tackle illegal and unauthorised traveller sites in August 2013, and outlined the existing powers available to councils to take action.

(Image: A gypsy camp established along the Fosse Way near to the town of Shipston-on-Stour. c. David Jones / PA Wire)

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