Masthead Local Govt - Planning

Government to review law on illegal gypsy and traveller sites

Ministers are to review the law on Gypsy and Traveller camps after a string of complaints from MPs about allegations of damage to open spaces caused by illegal encampments.

Local government minister Marcus Jones told Parliament in a debate on the review: “We have signalled our intention to seek a call for evidence to review the way in which existing powers are enforced and to understand what more can be done to tackle many of the issues raised in the debate.

“However, I caution members because, whatever powers this House has given, and may give, it is important to say that those powers will inevitably be enforced at local level and that enforcement is the key to success in this regard.”

The minister said experience from other jurisdictions, notably Ireland, on dealing with illegal encampments was “likely to feature very strongly” in the review.

Mr Jones said there had been strong feelings among MPs that there should be parity among all communities in the planning system and that enforcement powers should be used proportionately but fairly by local authorities.

“We have made it clear that temporary or permanent Traveller sites are not appropriate Green Belt development and that the personal circumstances and needs of particular families are unlikely to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt,” he said.

He concluded: “The challenges that we face are generally from a small group of the various Gypsy and Traveller communities, and we need to ensure that we balance this with fairness so that Gypsies and Travellers do not face issues such as hate crime.”

Mark Smulian

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