Fringe Box



Ministerial Statement Makes Council Defer Traveller Planning Decisions

Published on: 3 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 6 Jul, 2013
A site by Green Lane East, Normandy, one of the deferred planning applications.

A site by Green Lane East, Normandy, one of the deferred planning applications.

Three planning applications, all for extra traveller pitches, were withdrawn at the last minute during last night’s Guildford Borough Council planning committee (July 2) when a ministerial statement threw into doubt current policy on green-belt protection.

Cllr Marsha Mosley the new chair of the council's planning committee

Cllr Marsha Mosley the new chair of the council’s planning committee

A council officer was invited by the new chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Marsha Mosley (Con, Ash Vale), to read a prepared statement.

He said that: “A ministerial statement… was received at around 5 o’clock this afternoon entitled ‘Planning and Travellers’…. It referred to the ‘Protecting the green belt’ section of the March 2012 document, the National Planning Policy Framework, [which states that] the green belt should not be used, except in very special circumstances.”

Quoting from the ministerial statement he said: “Having considered recent planning decisions by councils and the planning inspectorate it has become apparent that in some cases the green belt has not always been given the sufficient protection that was the specific policy intent of ministers.

“The Secretary of State wishes to make clear that when considering planning applications, although each case will depend on its facts, he considers that the single issue of unmet demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.”

The council officer added that the Secretary of State would be scrutinising traveller site appeals in order to test the policies, at a national level, for a six month period after which it will be reviewed.

Guildford Borough Green Belt - the only two areas that are not designated green belt within the borough boundary are Ash and Tongham on the leftte area in the centre is Guildford Town the area on the left is Ash

Guildford Borough Green Belt – the only two areas that are not designated green belt within the borough boundary are Ash and Tongham (on the left) and  Guildford town tin the centre

The ministerial statement is likely to make traveller and gypsy planning decisions particularly difficult for Guildford Borough Council because of the high percentage of green belt land within the borough coupled with the legal obligation on them, as a local authority, to provide sufficient sites.

Within the borough there are only two public gypsy and traveller sites. Neither have vacancies. There is a shortfall of 15 pitches and a waiting list of 78 households. A new ‘Traveller Accommodation Assessment’ is under way.

The statement, also referring, as it did, to conventional housing, might make it more difficult for the council to meet its  targets for new housing, imposed by central government.

In a recent interview with The Guildford Dragon NEWS, Cllr Monika Juneja, lead councillor for planning said: “… we have not got sufficient gypsy and traveller pitches and we haven’t really started.

“… we are in the epicentre of the green belt and while we don’t want to build on it there are some areas of the green belt that are not very nice and maybe we could roll back the boundaries slightly.”

Cllr Angela Gunning, leader of the two member Labour Group said: “I regret that the Secretary of State thinks ‘that an unmet demand for housing and traveller sites will not outweigh harm to the green belt’.

“The concept of the green belt was, and still is [inter alia], to protect the countryside from urban sprawl and ribbon development: very laudable and I agree with the idea. However, I think this statement is too sweeping, and regrettably links housing sites with traveller sites. How many traveller-sites are needed compared to conventional housing needs?”

Cllr Juneja later wrote in top state: “Under current national planning policy, very special circumstances are needed to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt.  Traveller sites and bricks and mortar housing are inappropriate development in the Green Belt (unless for 100 per cent affordable homes).

“The ministerial statement simply says that need alone is unlikely to amount to the very special circumstances needed to justify development of new homes and traveller accommodation in the Green Belt.

“We need to have regard to the ministerial statement when determining planning applications, as it is a material planning consideration. However, it does not change national planning policy (the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Policy for Traveller Sites) to which we must give full consideration.

“We take many considerations into account when determining planning applications for traveller accommodation (of which need is one).  Other considerations include personal circumstances, when new sites will identified through the new Local Plan and whether we can show there are enough new sites for the next five years (which is a requirement of national policy).

“We need to provide new Traveller accommodation in our borough, and we are working towards achieving this.  The ministerial statement does not prevent development of new homes and traveller accommodation in the Green Belt where it is consistent with planning policy.

The Liberal Democrats declined the invitation invited to comment at this time.

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Responses to Ministerial Statement Makes Council Defer Traveller Planning Decisions

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Interesting. Green belt was a pre-war “invention” and a jolly good one too. They had some common sense then and it holds good, even now. Simply building for the sake of using up green fields and woodland and concreting over, does nothing to cure air pollution, food supply and claustrophobic living conditions.

    Just saying we need more houses for the people who want more jobs is not good enough. What is it based on? Is it just to generate more demand for consumer goods? We all have useless pieces of valueless paper, many in the non tangible electronic format, which has no worth save to extract money from the pockets of the workers and replace it with debt.

    We need the green belt to ease our life pace and change our ‘persistent need’ for worthless manufactured goods and paper documents and replace it with a more measured and realistic way of life.

    For we are, or should be, keepers of the world for our grandchildren not destroyers of our grandparents world.

  2. Godfrey Chapples Reply

    July 5, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Everyone has a need for a roof over their heads. Most of us take the route of a permanent building to live in, which we rent or buy as our circumstances permit.

    A person or group who choose to travel around should not expect special treatment and must abide by current rules and regulations.
    However, until the authorities in all areas of England and Wales make available some of the derelict airfields, decontaminated brownfield sites and areas adjacent available holiday home sites it must be a stringent rule that all and any travellers and gypsy persons have to find their own place of abode via local authority housing waiting lists.

    Perhaps the time has come to bring discipline to bear on this dreadful situation that stains our society. A non toleration of travellers and gypsies in all Green Belt locations is vital. A task force, if not already in being, must identify the many locations referred in the paragraph above and keep to a new rule of conduct i.e. “You will live only where you have a permitted use of the land or buildings. Until that time you must live in prescribed sites only.”

    The Government process now being identified by Eric Pickles must be allowed to continue until every piece of land has been considered for housing the permanent needs, and perhaps the less permanent needs, of the people who reside and travel throughout our wonderful rural countryside and urban environments.

    In the meantime we must all keep to the rules that pertain and offenders must be punished accordingly.

  3. Sue Fox Reply

    July 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Can’t see how three pitches are going to cause a massive intrusion into the green belt. But perhaps the plan to build more big houses in the green belt is wrong?

    Surrey is already the most expensive county in the UK. I feel it’s any old excuse to avoid providing accommodation for travellers.

  4. Ellie Slade Reply

    July 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    If green belt land is ever to be considered in any way for residential occupation, then why aren’t the local authorities forced to use it to build council houses on and reduce the ever increasing numbers on the housing registers?

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