News - Planning Policy for Traveller Sites

NEW - 28th May 2012 // UPDATED - 3rd July 2012

UPDATED - 3rd July 2012

E-mail Reply from Councillor Ron Whittaker
30th June 2012
RE: Planning for Traveller Sites

Phil.

Well where do I start from, first amazement as it seems to be one of your interpretation of the new legislation, the detailed email from Wendy Sharpe makes it perfectly clear that "Travellers sites, be it temporary or permanent in the Green Belt are inappropriate development,", just like any other forms of development.

You refer to robust evidence base, unfortunately due to the fact that an officer throughout 2010 failed to carry a request from Bakers, to check out listed information for accuracy relating to relevant planning history, this is as you are fully aware was Erlin Farm [Nov 2010].

Email in 2011 when asking Alan Cheesman about the detailed research carried out in to who indentified the three Green Belt sites, told it was Bakers Landscape Architect who found the sites potentially suitable, so the question put to Alan was "what research did our own officers do", answer, "we didn't do any because we were employing Bakers to do the work." then told if could identify any flaws with their work this should be drawn to their attention as part of the consultation".

Well as you know after I sought through the Freedom of information request and your own trawl of emails, we found the error of identifying Erlin Farm, and the failure that no officers / ward members were ever consulted on the suggested Green Belt sites, yet through 2010/11, at every Local Development Framework meeting it was the very clear and establish policy that the Green Belt was fully protected. Regardless, even when it was made very clear from the start that all three sites had a number of individual constraints.

What you are now telling hundreds of residents, that they now have to go through further months of uncertainty, when householders are unable to sell due to the fears of sites being close to adjacent occupiers / surrounding communities which is totally contra to policy CS 24, in the case of Careys road like Erlin farm is grade 1 agricultural farmland [GRADE 1] and is a working farm with livestock, also haymaking, recently an application was refused for "Solar Array Panels" due to "inappropriate form of development which would cause harm to the Green Belt, the setting of Muscliffe lane, Conservation area as well as Openness of the Countryside and Stour valley local nature reserve". Funny how no mention was ever made in Bakers submission, including both Alan Cheesman and Andy Williams regarding the history of this area, and the "HOMES FOR HEROES", such if proper and detail investigation had been held with officers all of this information would have been found out, also with Careys road, this is still part of the section of the relief road and remains such as a reservation until the Core strategy is finally adopted, but as I have said on many OCCASIONS, this small site adjacent to the Jewish cemetery could never take five pitch sites [which itself could mean ten caravans], this alone could never gain planning permission due to poor access arrangements and indeed parking / storage and here the objections from highways, so why do we continue here to say that these sites remain.

When Bakers put forward the reasons why other sites had been rejected, quote, "site were rejected at stage 1 due to impact on open space, another one was" setting of a listed building [church] FUNNY HOW NO MENTION MADE OF THE OPEN COUNTRYSIDE, CONSERVATION AREA, HOMES FOR HEROES COTTAGES IN MUSCLIFFE LANE, MORE IMPORTANTLY IS POLICY CS 34, GREEN BELT, "The South East Dorset Green Belt will continue to be designated in the Borough. Within the Green Belt inappropriate development, including uses of land, will not be permitted.

Inappropriate development will include any development which does not maintain the openness of the land or which conflicts with the purpose on including land within the Green Belt".

Throop Road site - this site has no school / shops / healthcare close by, also to gain any access would require to travel through large residential roads causing untold fears. concerns to householders in the adjacent properties.

This whole process has become a costly farce which has now resulted in anyone trying to move house and facing searches that they cannot sell or be forced to substantial reduce the selling price, so yes this leads my to the question "of compensation" as at preset properties close to the sites have been blighted due to the failure of all those concerned in not carrying out detail and proper investigations in landownership and finding out about the list on site constraints on all three sites.

Interesting a comment from ALAN CHEESMAN ON ERLIN FARM IN NOVEMBER 2011, "Your points about the farm viability are exactly the sort of thing you need to be saying in the consultation response", incredible ALL OF THESE MATTERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN FULLY DEALT WITH BY THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THESE THREE GREEN BELTS AT THE VERY FIRST STAGE AND NOT TO TELL RESIDENTS THESE ARE THE THINGS THEY NEED TO BE SAYING IN THE CONSULTATION STAGES. But again like every thing in local government and Government, no one takes any notice.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

E-mail from Phil Robinson, Planning Policy Officers, Bournemouth Borough Council to Councillor Ron Whittaker
29th June 2012
RE: Planning for Traveller Sites

Dear Cllr Whittaker

Sorry for not getting back sooner but as I think you are aware I too have been on leave.

There are a number of points in this email chain and so I will endeavour to deal with them all.

Firstly the recent Planning Policy for Travellers and the issue with regard to the use of the green belt for sites.

As I think you are aware I am afraid I remain to be convinced that this document actually significantly changes the position on this matter. In the Throop, Muscliff, Strouden, Townsend and Holdenhurst Forum Area we have a situation where sites have been proposed which are considered, by local residents, to be incompatible with Policy E which describes this proposed use of the green belt as inappropriate development. However, I consider that the situation we find ourselves in is actually similar to that which applied before the new legislation was issued. Here we are in a position of having an identified need (admittedly at present through an old study) which has to be met to comply with the requirements of Policy B of the new legislation. Insufficient sites have currently been identified within the built up area to achieve this which means that green belt sites have had to be considered. In this situation my interpretation of the new legislation is that Policy E does not 'trump' the requirements set out in Policy B and so if a need has been identified, through a future up to date and robust evidence base, and no built up area locations can be found it still remains the local authority's duty to find a site. In this scenario that would mean seeking a green belt location, using the exceptional circumstances element of Policy E paragraph 15, rather than giving a 'nil return' in the Development Plan Document. I am aware that this is not a view shared by Mr Ellwood MP and I have written to him on this matter as I believe he once again indicated at the Forum meeting that, by implication, my reading of the legislation is incorrect and that Bournemouth can put forward a 'nil return' for site provision even if a need has been identified.

In that respect, therefore, my view is that whilst the new policy statement does give a steer that we should only be looking at green belt locations as a last resort it does not lead to the conclusion that these sites should be immediately removed from consideration.

Another aspect of the request to delete these sites brings us back to the need for any future Development Plan Document to have to show a clear audit trail of decision making. Whilst elected Members may have every sympathy with the views of the correspondents and may feel that they do not want to take any of these green belt sites forward, this must be done at the appropriate time rather than pre-empting the agreed process for doing so if the final Development Plan Document is to be found sound. At present a number of reasons have been put forward for why these sites (and in this respect I would add in the Lansdowne site as well) should not proceed. Some of these are factual and will need to be checked out before the site can be left in or removed from future consideration. Also it is anticipated that work will need to be undertaken to assess any new sites that have been put forward in the representations.

At present it is my understanding that the outcome of these three pieces of work

1) analysis of initial comments on proposed sites,
2) results of any additional factual analysis, and
3) analysis of comments made on second round of identified sites

Will be published together at the time when the next stage of the process (most likely the preferred options stage) is undertaken. The reason for this is that it is difficult for a decision to be made on whether a site is one that can be recommended until all the evidence has been gathered and a comparative assessment made. The timetable for this work is currently under review and so I am not yet in a position to inform you of when this decision will be made. However I am anticipating that a revised timetable for the completion of this process should be available to Members next month. I know this is not a very satisfactory answer but as I said at the previous forum meeting we are trying to complete this work at a time when the goal posts (National Planning Policy Framework and New Planning advice on travellers) are moving.

Thirdly I am aware that Officers will be recommending that a new locally derived study of need, for both permanent residential and transit pitch requirements, be undertaken. Whether this happens is an elected Member decision but I would not envisage that this will not be agreed. I see from some correspondence that it has been suggested the Bournemouth undertake its own study. I feel, however, that this would not be cost effective at a time when all the other authorities in the County are also seeking to undertake this work. Clearly though we will be making sure that the new study obtains evidence that will ensure that any future identified site requirement for Bournemouth does accurately reflect true local need.

Turning to the recent amendments to the Core Strategy Policy CS 24, this only deals with the criteria that will be used to assess applications that come in in advance of the adoption of the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document and should not be confused with the process that will identify possible future sites. As you will be aware the mechanism by which a green belt site could be allocated in a Development Plan Document is set out in paragraph 15 of Policy E.

I don't think that there is much I can add to the discussion on Erlin Farm that hasn't already been said but whatever the situation was in the past, with regard to consultation with Officers from Bournemouth Borough Council, I am aware that the relevant Service Directories have now made their comments known in representations to Bakers.

I hope that this has covered the points you have raised but if there are any that I have accidentally missed in this, or yesterdays, email please let me know and I will try to deal with them.

Phil Robinson

NEW - 28th May 2012

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Planning Policy Officers at Bournemouth Borough Council
27th May 2012
RE: Planning Policy for Traveller Sites

Phil/Mark.

Now having seen the new text on policy CS24. With reference to additional criterion, "NOT TO BE LOCATED IN THE GREEN BELT" nothing here makes it clearer that than that, we cannot allow these 3 green belt sites to remain when Bakers failed to undertake a proper and vigorous search. Erlin farm is not in council ownership and the Farm is worked, not as indicated as THEN DESCRIBED AS "UNDEVELOPED." besides all the other site constraints that have been submitted to Bakers in the so-called consultation period.

Same argument goes for Careys Road and Throop Road. Where Bakers failed to make direct contact with those department responsible for land ownership.

Yes I know that the Government say if the Council wishes to make a exceptional limited alteration to define Green belt boundary it can do so but NOT in a response to a planning application, so I presume the text of the additional criterion means what it says, "not to be located in the green belt".

Councillor Ron Whittaker

Planning Policy for Traveller Sites

The Government published a new Planning Policy for Traveller Sites on 23rd March 2012. This new policy came into effect on 27th March 2012.

The full document can be found at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/planningpolicytravellers

The document sets out a number of aims in respect of traveller sites, which include that local planning authorities should make their own assessment of need for the purposes of planning. This is a change from the previous approach which was for the Government to set out the detailed information that needed to be collected to decide how many transit and permanent traveller pitches were needed.

The new policies aim is to reduce the number of unauthorised developments and encampments and make enforcement more effective. To do this, however the policy indicates that Councils should increase the number of traveller sites in appropriate locations with planning permission, to address under provision and maintain an appropriate level of supply. The Council will still be required to set pitch targets for gypsies and travellers which address the likely permanent and transit site needs of travellers in their area. However the Council is now required to identify and update annually, a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years' worth of sites against their locally set targets and to 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 appears a more stringent task than before.

Green Belt

The new policy indicates that when plan-making and decision-taking Councils should protect Green Belt from inappropriate development. It indicates that inappropriate development is harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved, except in very special circumstances. The policy indicates that traveller sites (temporary or permanent) in the Green Belt are inappropriate development. It states that Green Belt boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances. However, if a Council wishes to make an exceptional limited alteration to the defined Green Belt boundary to meet a specific, identified need for a traveller site, it can do so through the plan making process but not in response to a planning application. This has led to the Council to propose a change to its Core Strategy Policy.

Whilst this is a new Policy there appear to be few changes that alter the situation in this area. Whilst an ability to provide the identified need for sites across local authority boundaries is to be welcomed this still requires those that would be gaining sites from another authority to be willing recipients. This is unlikely to be the case in South East Dorset where the majority of Councils are struggling to find sites for those identified as being required in their own area.

The change to prevent 'windfall' applications for Traveller accommodation sites in the Green Belt is a welcome change. However, the reference to finding allocated sites in the Green Belt, even though they remain considered as inappropriate development, does not seem to materially change the situation in north Bournemouth.

The other worry is the requirement placed upon Councils to have a list of allocated developable sites to meet future demands up until 2027 which might lead to even more sites having to be identified.

One issue that is both good news and bad news is the ability for Councils to now devise and undertake their own Gypsy and Traveller needs assessment. Whilst this will give a more up to date figure for future needs it will if the Dorset authorities decide to undertake such a study, thereby not requiring unnecessary sites to be identified, it will lead to a delay in the completion of the process whilst this additional work is being undertaken a concern for those seeking to sell their properties in areas where sites have been proposed.