Eric Pickles: time for fair play for all on planning
- Published on Thursday, 14 April 2011 10:37
- Posted by Scott Buckler
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today announced proposals for a more localist and fairer way of providing sites for travellers, building on earlier commitments to strengthen measures to tackle the abuse of the planning system(April 14th)
In new proposed planning guidelines, the Green Belt and countryside will have more robust protection, local councils will have more discretion, and local planning authorities will have a stronger hand in supporting appropriate development. Central guidance to councils on compulsorily purchasing land for travellers sites will be removed, and top-down Whitehall planning rules, which Ministers believe were counterproductive, will be abolished.
Ministers believe planning regulations have seriously harmed community relations over the last few years, by imposing targets for traveller sites on local councils, increasing the number of unauthorised sites, and compelling councils to encroach onto the Green Belt. At the same time the old planning rules created a perception of special treatment for some groups, undermining the notion of 'fair play' in the planning system and further harming community cohesion.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
"Top-down planning diktats led to the worst of both worlds - more unauthorised sites and worsening community relations. It's time for fair play in the planning system - standing up for those who play by the rules, and tougher action for those who abuse and play the system.
"We are giving councils the power and discretion to protect the environment and help rebuild community relations. Clearer planning guidelines will make the planning system easier for all to understand.
"A small minority may still try to abuse the system. Councils should be particularly vigilant over the extended Royal Wedding and Easter weekends to take firm action against anyone who tries."
Outlining the support for authorised sites in the Government's new approach, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:
"The majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens and they should be given the same opportunities as everyone else to live in a safe place where they can bring up their children.
"The New Homes Bonus and £60 million of site grants will support councils to build and plan new official sites. We will also give law-abiding travellers better protection against eviction and the same rights and responsibilities as residents on other mobile home sites.
"We want to ensure a smooth transition to the new system - so the Government will also help provide training opportunities for councillors about their new role."
The new planning policy will give councils the freedom and responsibility to determine the right level of traveller site provision in their area, in consultation with local communities, while ensuring fairness in the planning system. It sits within a broader package of reforms to abolish the last Government's Regional Strategies and return planning powers to councils and communities.
Ministers believe that local planning authorities are best placed to know the needs of their communities, not unelected regional bodies. In line with other reforms to streamline the planning system, the new Planning Policy Statement will be a much shorter and clearer document that will be easier for councils and also members of the public to use effectively.