Last updated: 29th June 2016
Section 124 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 removes the duty on local authorities under the Housing Act 2004 to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and travellers in their area as a distinct category. Instead, it specifies that local housing authorities should consider the needs of people "residing in or resorting to their district with respect to the provision of sites on which caravans can be stationed, or places on inland waterways where houseboats can be moored".
In March 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government published draft guidance on how it expects local authorities to interpret this provision. This draft guidance can be found through this link.
The national planning guidance set out in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites is to be read alongside the general policies of the National Planning Policy Framework. The guidance, first issued in 2012, places a requirement on local authorities to set pitch targets for Gypsies and Travellers and plot targets for Travelling Showpeople which address the likely permanent and transit site accommodation needs of their area. To set those pitch and plot targets local authorities should prepare and maintain an up-to-date understanding of accommodation need using a robust evidence base.
In addition to setting pitch targets local authorities are required to identify a supply of specific deliverable sites, sufficient to provide five years’ worth of sites against the locally set targets. There is also a requirement to plan for a further 10 years’ supply of sites.
Planning Policy for Traveller Sites was updated in August 2015. It amends the planning definition of travellers to limit it to those who have a nomadic habit of life, meaning that where someone has given up travelling permanently they should be treated no different from the settled population.
It also restricts circumstances in which temporary permission for Gypsy sites may be given in the Green Belt. It updates policy so that a lack of an up-to-date five-year supply of deliverable sites is not a significant material consideration in planning decisions involving the grant of temporary planning permission in sensitive areas, such as land designated as Green Belt. Councils are now expected to "very strictly limit" new traveller sites in open countryside.
Local authorities have a duty under the Equality Act to actively seek to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and promote good race relations.
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