Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations DPD; Issues and Options Paper

Contents

The 'Frequently Asked Questions' have been split into 2 sections:

The contents list below shows all the questions and provides links to the relevant answers.

 
Last updated: 5th February 2014
 

 

 

Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations DPD: Preferred Options Paper
 

Part 1: General information

1.1 Who are Gypsies and Travellers?

1.2 Who are Travelling Showpeople?

1.3 Why does Bath and North East Somerset need Gypsy sites?

1.4 How are Bath and North East Somerset responding to this requirement?

1.5 What is the difference between a permanent and transit site?

1.6 Shouldn’t Travellers be ‘travelling’?

1.7 What do Gypsy and Traveller sites look like? 

1.8 What would it be like to have a site near where I live? 

1.9 Do Gypsies and Travellers pay tax? 

1.10 Can residents run a business from their site?  

1.11 What happens if I spot anti-social behaviour?

Part 2: Information specific to the Gypsy & Travellers' & Travelling Showpeoples Sites Plan

2.1 What is a Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD)?

2.2 Why is the Council producing this Plan?

2.3 What has the Council consulted on?

2.4 How have local communities been involved?

2.5 How was the assessment process undertaken?

2.6 What happens next with the site assessments?

2.7 Have the Highways Team been consulted?

2.8 How are the pitch numbers assessed?

2.9 Why are sites in the Green Belt being considered?

2.10 What about the MoD sites in Bath?

2.11 Who owns the sites being considered byn the Council for allocation?

2.12 Who will pay for the development of sites?

2.13 My local school / GP is already full. How would it cope with additional students / patients?

2.14 What happens once sites are allocated?

2.15 Will the residents of the sites pay tax?

2.16 How has the impact on the environment been assessed?

2.17 Are the Preferred Sites on Brownfield or Greenfield land?

2.18 What are the Council’s legal obligations to conduct this work?

2.19 How is the impact on local communities being assessed?

2.20 How will refuse be collected?

2.21 How will the Council control unauthorised expansion of sites?

2.22 Appendix 1 - Primary School Information 

2.23 Why is it taking longer to prepare the Gypsies, Travellers, and Travelling Showpeoples' Sites Plan than was originally planned?

2.24 What is the status of the emerging Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations DPD?


 

Part 1: General Information

1.1 Who are Gypsies and Travellers?

This is the term used to refer to all Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers under the Race Relations Act (1976) now incorporated into the Equality Act (2010). There are several main Gypsy and Traveller communities, each with different histories and traditions:

Gypsies are Romany ethnic groups who have lived in Britain for at least 500 years. Their ancestors originate from northern India.

Irish Travellers are a nomadic group with a distinctive way of life who have been part of Irish and British society since ancient times.

(New) Travellers are people of settled backgrounds who adopted a travelling lifestyle in the more recent past, although some are now in their third or fourth generation of travelling. The neutral term ‘Traveller’ is preferred.

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1.2. Who are Travelling Showpeople?

Travelling Showpeople are members of a group organised for the purposes of holding fairs, circuses or shows (whether or not travelling together as such). Most Travelling Showpeople are members of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain.

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1.3 Why does Bath and North East Somerset need Gypsy sites?

Gypsies and Travellers face the most serious disadvantages of all ethnic minority groups with a much shorter life expectancy, high child mortality rates and the lowest educational attainment. The lack of legal sites make accessing key services and facilities much harder.

Councils are required by law to assess the accommodation needs of all people living in the area they are responsible for; this includes Gypsies and Travellers. A detailed study carried out on behalf of Bath and North East Somerset Council identified that 28 new permanent residential and 5 transit pitches need to be built for Gypsies and Travellers and 10 new plots need to be built for Travelling Showpeople in B&NES District over the period to 2027.

Bath and North East Somerset now has two authorised permanent sites each with one pitch following the granting of planning permission on 15th January 2014.

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1.4 How are Bath and North East Somerset responding to this requirement?

The Council is currently working on producing a Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). This will allocate the necessary land suitable for development as Gypsy, Traveller or Travelling Showpeople sites.

The Council consulted on an Issues and Options document between November 2011 - January 2012 and a Prefered Options document between May - July 2012.

Consultation in Bath and North East Somerset is about the allocation of land for a particular use, it is not about the granting of planning permission for individual sites. It is an opportunity for the Bath and North East Somerset public to express views on the proposals for the allocation of land for Gypsy, Traveller or Travelling Showpeople sites.  The timetable for further work, public consultation and approval of a final document is set out on this page. No final decisions have been made as to which sites will be allocated, nor how those sites will be developed at this time.

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1.5. What is the difference between a permanent and transit site?

There is a significant shortage of permanent residential sites nationwide. Permanent sites can either be provided by local authorities, Registered Providers or owned by Gypsies and Travellers themselves. The sites are used as a long-term residence and typically have a number of amenities, including water supply, electricity, individual toilets and utility rooms.

Preference has been expressed by (New) Travellers for low-impact environmentally friendly sites. This can mean developing sites with no hardstanding, utility blocks and living 'off-grid' by providing power on-site rather than reliance on the national grid.

Transit sites are permanent developments, but are for temporary residence, allowing people to reside legally on serviced land without the need to resort to unauthorised encampment. By providing transit pitches the Council will be able to offer a legal solution to those wanting to stop temporarily in the District. Facilities on transit sites are usually more basic than on permanent sites and stays are limited to a period set by a site manager. All transit sites are subject to rent and council tax.

Management of transit sites limits the length of stays. The maximum time limits are set on individual sites, for example the transit site in Bristol limits stays to 13 weeks within a 12 month period, whereas elsewhere stays have been limited to 8 weeks.

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1.6 Shouldn’t Travellers be ‘travelling’?

Not all Gypsies and Travellers live an itinerant lifestyle. Some groups are highly mobile, moving on to find work elsewhere and others live permanently in one area or only travel for a few weeks or months of the year. The main reason for travelling is to work, follow fairs and visit family and so a ‘base’ site is required from which to live when not travelling.

As Gypsies and Travellers grow older and become less able to travel on a regular basis, some require a safe and secure stopping place where they can maintain the cultural traditions of being a Gypsy or Traveller. Gypsies and Travellers also sometimes stop travelling temporarily to care for sick or elderly relatives or to continue a child’s education. Families will then normally take up the travelling way of life again following these events. National planning guidance recognises the needs of Gypsies and Travellers even when they may have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently.

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1.7 What do Gypsy and Traveller sites look like?

Sites can be small, of around 3-4 pitches, with one household per pitch, or up to around 15 pitches, which is the figure national guidance suggests makes for a comfortable living environment and is still easy to manage.

Typical pitches on modern Gypsy and Traveller sites are much like tourist caravan sites, including an area of hardstanding for a caravan or chalet style mobile home plus landscaping and vehicle parking. Minimum site requirements include mains water, sewerage and electricity. Sites can also be connected to mains gas if it is available in the area.

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1.8 What would it be like to have a site near where I live?

Properly established and managed Gypsy and Traveller sites are nothing like unauthorised encampments. Unauthorised encampments by their nature are uncontrolled and unregulated and can cause considerable problems for both on-site and neighbouring residents. Properly set up and maintained sites have services and facilities on-site to establish safe, secure and healthy communities.

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1.9. Do Gypsies and Travellers pay tax?

As with all other residential properties, each pitch will be assessed by the local taxation officer and given a council tax rating. Residents will then pay the appropriate level of council tax for their property. Charges for water, electricity and other amenities are also paid on Traveller sites.

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1.10. Can residents run a business from their site?

The Council asked this question as part of the Site Allocations DPD Issues and Options consultation. As part of any site allocations the Council may propose that a site is suitable for some business use. Details of this would have to be taken through a detailed planning application which will be assessed on its individual merits. Permission could be granted subject to relevant conditions either restricting or ruling out the operation of particular business activities. Business use on permanent pitches or a Travelling Showmen's yard will be subject to the normal business rates.

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1.11 What happens if I spot anti-social behaviour?

Any anti-social behaviour of any sort, anywhere in the District is dealt with by the Council in partnership with the police and other relevant agencies. All perpetrators of anti-social behaviour are treated the same, irrespective of their cultural background.

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Part 2: Information Specific to the Preferred Options Consultation

This list of answers to FAQs was been prepared to help residents and other Groups in Bath & North East Somerset to participate in the public consultation on the preferred Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople site options.  The FAQs below relate only to procedural issues and not to detailed site specific queries. Specific issues relating to sites are addressed in the Detailed Site Assessment Report. Many other questions raised will be addressed through the response to the public consultation when sites are reviewed. This list of FAQs relates to the Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations Plan. 

2.1 What is a Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD)?

The B&NES Site Allocations DPD will be a formal Plan which will identify and allocate land specifically for new development of accommodation for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople. It is currently under preparation and no decisions on sites have yet been made. The first formal stage in the Plan making process will be the publication of the Draft Plan.

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2.2 Why is the Council producing this Plan?

The Government requires that Local Authorities identify sites to meet the needs of the travelling communities. Paragraph 9 of “Planning Policy for Traveller sites” (March 2012) states that

“ Local planning authorities should, in producing their Local Plan:

a. identify and update annually, a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of sites against their locally set targets

b. identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, for years six to ten and, where possible, for years 11-15 “

This Plan will therefore help to address the needs of this section of the local community but will also ensure that the most appropriate sites are identified in a planned way rather than decisions being made on an ad hoc basis by application or appeal. The failure to identify and allocate sites inhibits the ability of the Council to take enforcement action against unauthorised sites in poor locations.  The Council has previously managed to successfully defend appeals against enforcement notices on the basis that DPD work is being progressed.

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2.3 What has the Council consulted on?

As set out on the consultation page, the Council has most recently consulted on site options, inviting public comment on six sites that have been suggested by the Council and stakeholders as possible locations for development as Gypsy and Traveller pitches, or a Travelling Showmen’s yard. At this stage B&NES Council is not committed to any site. The inclusion of a site in any document consulted on so far does not represent any decision by the Council and does not provide the site with any kind of planning status. The Council chose to consult with local communities at an early stage in the plan preparation process to best inform its decision making on which sites will be allocated.

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2.4 How have local communities been involved?

Issues and Options Consultation

Broad public consultation was undertaken between 21 November 2011 and 16 January 2012 giving an opportunity for early community involvement. The purpose of this informal consultation stage with the public was to:

  • discuss the issues around providing new sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople;
  • finalise a method for assessing what makes a viable location for new sites; 
  • Invite land to be put forward to be considered as possible new sites as a Gypsy, Traveller or Travelling Showpeople site: a ‘Call for Sites’.

Methods of community engagement, including formal notification and public drop-in events, are fully detailed in the Consultation Statement for the Issues and Options stage.

Preferred Options Consultation

Engagement included early press releases and notification of Town and Parish Councils. Cabinet agreed at its meeting on 9 May 2012 to consult on 6 shortlisted sites. Formal consultation on the Preferred Options document took place between 23 May 2012 and 20 July 2012. This consultation was a second informal, discretionary stage giving an opportunity for early community involvement in the selection of sites and a further opportunity to put forward sites for consideration.

As above, a Consultation Statement (please note: this file is 10.8 MB) sets out the details of community engagement and the public responses to the ‘Preferred Options’ consultation.

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2.5 How was the assessment process undertaken?

The broad approach to how site assessment would be conducted was agreed by Cabinet in November 2011 and widely consulted on through the Issues and Options paper. This included a “call for sites” and consultation on the matrix criteria. The detail of the assessment process is set out in the Preferred Options Stage Detailed Site Assessment Report.

A two-stage approach was undertaken. Stage 1 was a matrix assessment which was a desktop analysis of sites with information fed into the site scoring matrix to indicate relative sustainability. This was followed by Stage 2, a more thorough assessment of each site which led to the shortlist of sites considered by Cabinet on 9 May 2012. Therefore the matrix score was only an indicative assessment of suitability. However the Council has acknowledged in the detailed site assessment that there are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be clarified if some of the sites are to progress any further, such as the availability of services.  Further site specific issues have and continue to be investigated and will inform the current stage of site of site assessment on those sites still being considered (see the main DPD page).

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2.6 What happens next with site assessments?

The site scoring matrix used for the previous stage of consultation was only the first part of the site assessment process. It was followed by a more detailed second stage of site assessment which led to public confusion as to how sites were selected.

At its meeting on 12 September 2012 the Cabinet considered the need  to undertake a ‘stock take’ of the work undertaken so far on the Site Allocations DPD. This As indicated at the more recent 12 June 2013 Cabinet meeting.  The full list of remaining and new sites suggested to the Council are being assessed against a final version of that methodology which will then be subject to public scrutiny in Winter 2014.

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2.7 Have the Highways Team been consulted?

At each step of the Site Allocations DPD internal consultations have been carried out before any final decisions are made; this includes shortlisting of sites. Internal consultation includes asking for feedback from all relevant teams, including Highways, Environment and Education. Responses to internal consultations are incorporated into published documents, including the Preferred Options Stage Detailed Site Assessment Report.

Where internal consultation highlights particular issues the information or issue is highlighted as either requiring further investigation or actions. The Detailed Site Assessment Report explicitly acknowledges where individual sites have particular difficulties which would need to be overcome if a site is to be included in the draft Plan for allocation.

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2.8 How are the pitch numbers assessed?

The pitch numbers recommended in the Preferred Options document are the maximum figures a site could accommodate.  These numbers may be reduced further when more information has been assessed, but will not be increased. The assessment of pitch numbers has taken account of the guidance in Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites: Good Practice Guide (CLG, 2008), Travelling Showpeople’s Sites Model Standard Package (The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, 2007) and any planning history relevant to individual sites.

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2.9 Why are sites in the Green Belt being considered?

Government guidance set out in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites states that Traveller sites are inappropriate development in the Green Belt which should be refused planning permission except in ‘very special circumstances’. Government guidance does not define ‘very special circumstances’ but depends on decision makers to carry out a balancing exercise of any material considerations. This can include the lack of available alternative sites.

In plan-making, local authorities may make alterations to the Green Belt, for example by making an inset to remove land from the Green Belt, in exceptional circumstances. In developing the Site Allocations Plan the Council are required to justify why it considers ‘very special circumstances’ apply to any Green Belt sites allocated in the final Plan. To assist in this assessment the Council are, as part of the review of Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan sites, reviewing the potential for pitch allocation on major development sites.

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2.10 What about the MoD Sites in Bath?

The role of the MoD sites in the spatial strategy for Bath was agreed in the Core Strategy by Members of the Council when they agreed the Draft Core Strategy in September 2010. It was agreed that the function of these site was to help meet the District’s significant general housing need, focusing housing on these sites, along with associated supporting uses. This minimises the need for the Council to remove land from the Green Belt on the edge of Bath or Bristol within the District to meet general housing needs. The substitution of housing land for Traveller pitches is not equal: based on the pitch size standards set out in the Preferred Options Stage Detailed Site Assessment Report,  6 pitches equates to roughly 15 houses and whilst this does not appear to be a significant number, it is an important consideration in the current housing needs.

However, as set out under 2.9 above, as part of the stocktake, the Council is currently in the process of reviewing whether Traveller pitches could be delivered on major development sites, including the MoD sites.

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2.11 Who owns sites being considered by the Council for allocation?

Of the sites previously consulted on through the Preferred Options document, one of the remaining three sites - Parcel 7100, Woollard Lane - is in private ownership.  Planning permission has now been granted for one permanent pitch on this site on 15th January 2014.  Further information on the new sites being considered by the Council will be published in due course.

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2.12 Who will pay for the development of sites?

The Council is only committed to identifying sites but is not legally obliged to develop sites.  The Council could decide to develop site(s) but site development may also be brought forward by private individuals or Registered Providers. Site development costs would fall to the individual developer, and would include paying for site infrastructure, such as connection to utilities and mains sewerage, as well as any remediation works that may be required to make a site acceptable. Running costs of sites will depend on tenure but could be met by rents if owned by a Registered Provider.

The Council is currently bringing forward a planning application for the development of a Traveller site on Lower Bristol Road, Twerton, Bath. The development of this site is to be funded through Homes and Communities Agency grant funding.

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2.13 My local school / GP is already full. How would it cope with additional students / patients?

The Local Authority is obliged to provide a school place for every B&NES resident child that requests one, but if the school requested is popular and over-subscribed, the place offered could be at another school which might be further away.  Any applications for places at any other time than the normal admissions process would be an in-year admission which is the process for all children.  Proximity to a primary school was an issue in site assessment. Annexed to this FAQ is the information on schools that was presented at the Cabinet Meeting on 9/5/12.

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2.14 What happens once sites are allocated?

If the Council comes to the decision that a site is suitable for use as a Gypsy or Traveller site, then it will be included in the Draft Plan.  The Draft Plan will be published for public consultation and ‘submitted’ to the Government for examination.  An independent Inspector will be appointed to consider the soundness of the Plan i.e. is it justified, effective (deliverable) and consistent with national policy.  Everyone who makes an objection has the right to appear at the Inquiry. The Inspector will then make recommendations for the Council to consider.

Allocated sites will still have to go through the planning application process to determine the detailed aspects of development such as design, highways access and landscaping before development can commence. This will mean further information in the form of ecology and highways assessments may still be required on individual sites to gain planning permission and further local consultation will take place for any planning application.

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2.15 Will the residents of the sites pay tax?

As with all other residential properties, each pitch will be assessed by the local taxation officer and given a council tax rating.  Residents will then pay the appropriate level of council tax for their property.  Charges for water, electricity and other amenities are also paid on Traveller sites.  Gypsies and Travellers are subject to the same law enforcement rules as the settled community for non-payment of taxes.

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2.16 How has the impact on the environment been assessed?

The Council has sought to identify sites which have minimal impact on the environment.  The Detailed Site Assessment Report outlines the likely impact on the landscape that the development of these sites would have and opportunities for mitigation.  None of the sites are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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2.17 Are the Preferred Sites on Brownfield or Greenfield land?

Brownfield sites are those which have previously been developed and are often now vacant.  Greenfield sites are those which have never been developed.  The only remaining Greenfield Preferred Option sites are Lower Bristol Rd (Twerton) and Woollard Lane (Whitchurch).

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2.18 What are the Council’s legal obligations to conduct this work?

The Council’s legal obligations are set out on a separate webpage available to view here.

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2.19 How is the impact on local communities being assessed?

The impact on local residents is taken into account in the assessment of sites as well as the impact of locations on the future occupants of potential sites.  The proximity of sites to existing settlements is considered important with the proviso that sites not adjacent to a settlement boundary may still be considered suitable if they are in close proximity to key local services and facilities.  Noise  is another issue assessed recognising that this could be a health issue that may require mitigation if affecting proposed or neighbouring residents.  Policy CP11 in the emerging Core Strategy, against which planning applications for Gypsy and Traveller sites will be considered, will ensure that a site will not have an unacceptable adverse impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding area and that the use of the site should have no unacceptable impact on the amenities of neighbouring occupiers.

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2.20 How will refuse be collected?

Refuse disposal facilities will be expected be provided on site.  Sufficient space should also be accommodated for local authority refuse collection vehicles to reach an appropriate point to collect waste from individual pitches and any communal refuse areas.

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2.21 How will the Council control unauthorised expansion of sites?

Unauthorised expansion of sites could be addressed in the detailed design stage, so that this is made physically difficult. Any unauthorised expansion of sites would be dealt with by the Council in partnership with the police and other relevant agencies. If the Council makes adequate provision for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs as a result of establishing this DPD in the first place then the pressure to expand sites in an unauthorised way should be reduced.

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2.22: Appendix 1 - Primary School Information (this reproduces information on schools which was made available at the Cabinet meeting on 9th May 2012)

Site Site Size (ha) Est. Pitch Provision Nearest Primary School Number of Places Number on roll as at January 2012 Nearest Co-educational Secondary School Number of Places Number on Roll as at January 2012
Radstock Infant School Canteen, Radstock

 0.05

 2

Academy of Trinity (Approx. 0.3 miles)

210

 200

Writhlington (approx. 1.3 miles)

 1,225

 1209

Land near Ellsbridge House, Keynsham

 0.3

6

Chandag Infants & Chandag Juniors (approx 0.8 miles)

180 & 272

172 & 262

Wellsway (approx. 0.8 miles)

 1,050

 1053

Parcel 7100, Woollard Lane, Whitchurch

 0.51

 2

Whitchurch (approx 0.6 miles)

 210

 193

Broadlands (approx. 3.2 miles)

 1,085

 762

Station Road, Newbridge 

 0.3

 1 Travelling Showpeople yard

Newbridge (approx. 0.4 miles)

 420

 438

Oldfield (approx. 1 mile)

 960

 715

Lower Bristol Road, Twerton

 0.72

 15 Transit or 14 permanent

(1) Twerton Infants (approx. 1.1)

(2) St Michael's Junior (0.9 miles)

(3) Newbridge (approx. 1 mile)

(1) 180

(2) 240

(3) 420

(1) 150

(2) 174

(3) 438

Oldfield (approx. 1.1 miles)

 960

 715

Old Colliery Buildings, Stanton Wick

2.5

15 & 5 Transit

Pensford (approx. 0.9 mile)

105

69

Chew Valley (approx. 4.1 miles)

980

973

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2.23 Why is it taking longer to prepare the Gypsies, Travellers, and Travelling Showpeoples' Sites Plan than was originally planned?

The Planning Regulations set out the formal stages required for the preparation of a planning document.  In summary, these are;

· Assessment of options based on relevant evidence,

· Preparation of draft plan & public consultation,

· Submission of plan for examination,

· Inspector’s report,

· Adoption.

Plans are examined by an independent inspector who must decide if the plan is sound.  That means it must;

· meet identified sustainable development needs;

· be the most appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;

· be deliverable and based on joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities in a way which complies with the Duty to Co-Operate; and

· consistent with national policy.  

The Inspector will therefore scrutinize both the content and preparation procedures of the Plan.  Any plan is highly unlikely be found sound if it fails on any of these issues. In particular, the Duty to Co-operate introduced by the 2012 Localism Act, Local Authorities requires to work together to meet development requirements which cannot wholly be met within their own areas. A plan will not be allowed to proceed to exam if this duty not met.

Therefore whilst B&NES has already undertaken its assessments of need, it must work with adjoining LAs to ensure the identification of the need in a consistent way and that  there is a consistent approach to provision across the sub-region.  Not all the other LAs are as advanced as B&NES and this joint working has led to a delay to the B&NES plan to ensure that the WoE Authorities are in the same place.

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2.24 What is the status of the emerging Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations DPD?

Once adopted the Site Allocations DPD will form part of the Council’s Statutory Development Plan against which planning applications will be determined. Planning applications should accord with the provisions of the Adopted DPD, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The NPPF (para 216) confirms that during its preparation decision takers may also give weight to the emerging DPD according to:

  • the stage of preparation of the emerging plan (the more advanced the preparation, the greater the weight that may be given);
  • the extent to which there are unresolved objections to relevant policies (the less significant the unresolved objections, the greater the weight that may be given); and
  • the degree of consistency of the relevant policies in the emerging plan to the policies in this Framework (the closer the policies in the emerging plan to the policies in the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given).

Given that the DPD is currently at a relatively early stage in its preparation and there remain significant unresolved objections only limited weight can be given to the emerging DPD in determining planning applications. 

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