House of Commons Library

Gypsies and travellers: planning provisions

Published Monday, January 4, 2016

Gypsies and travellers have thier own specific section of Government planning policy. The Government has made a number of changes to this designed to strengthen enforcement powers, to change the definition of a traveller for planning purposes, and to give greater protection to green belt areas. This note sets out these issues in more detail.

Jump to full report >>

This note sets out the planning policies specifically in relation to gypsy and traveller site provision, along with recent changes made by the former coalition Government.

The Government’s planning policies and requirements for gypsy and traveller sites is set out in Planning policy for traveller sites, which must be taken into consideration in preparing local plans and taking planning decisions. It encourages local authorities to formulate their own evidence base for gypsy and traveller needs and to provide their own targets relating to pitches required. If planning authorities are unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable traveller sites, this in turn may make it more difficult for them to justify reasons for refusing planning applications for temporary pitches at appeal.

In a January 2014 written ministerial statement the Government sought to reemphasise existing policy that  “unmet need, 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 statement also confirmed that the Secretary of State would continue with his pledge to recover more planning appeals relating to traveller sites in green belt land for his own determination. Following a legal challenge which found that certain aspects of this policy were contrary to provisions in the Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention of Human Rights, the Government decided to “de-recover” a number of outstanding appeals. In August 2015 the Government has since said that it will “consider the recovery of a proportion of relevant appeals in the Green Belt for the Secretary of State’s decision”.

In September 2014 the coalition Government published, Consultation: planning and travellers, which proposes to change the definition of “traveller” for planning related purposes so that it would exclude those who have permanently ceased from travelling. This change came into force from August 2015 following a revised version of Planning policy for traveller sites being issued. Another change now makes intentional occupation of land without planning permission a material consideration in any retrospective planning application for that site.

A summary of all available powers which can be used by police and local authorities to deal with unauthorised encampments, along with references to all the legislation is set out in the Government guidance Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments: A summary of available powers, March 2015 and is not reproduced in this note.

More information about planning enforcement in general is set out in the Library standard note, Enforcement of Planning Law.

This note applies to England only.

Commons Briefing papers SN07005

Author: Louise Smith

Topics: Ethnic groups, Planning

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.