Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Local Plan

Chapter 2 - Identifying the Need for Gypsy and Traveller Pitches in Ashford

The Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment 2018

2.1 An up to date Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) was needed to fulfil the council's obligations under Policy A of the PPTS, which requires that councils assemble a 'robust' evidence base to establish accommodation needs'[1] . A GTAA informs the preparation of the plan by providing an indication of the number of pitches the site policies in the plan needs to provide.

2.2 In order to respond to changes in the PPTS to reflect the amended definition of travellers, and to bring our evidence base up to date in preparation for the plan, the Council commissioned a consultant (ARC4) to carry out the GTAA on our behalf. The survey work was conducted in winter 2017/2018 and was carried out in conjunction with other authorities across East Kent.

2.3 The assessment was carried out in four phases:

  1. Literature/desk based review and steering group.
  2. Fieldwork survey and interviews with gypsies and travellers
  3. Stakeholder survey
  4. Needs assessment and report drafting

2.4 The GTAA separates the need between those residents who meet the planning definition of Gypsy and Travellers set out in Annex 1 of PPTS, and those who, whilst culturally defining themselves as Gypsy or Traveller, do not meet that current planning definition. We refer to these different calculations as 'PPTS Need' and 'Cultural Need' in this document. Overall, PPTS Need is a lower amount of need than Cultural Need. More information on this can be found from paragraph 2.14 below.

2.5 The GTAA breaks down the total needs into 5 year and then 7-year periods in order to distinguish a 5 year need (both cultural and PPTS). Those pitches that are temporary or that do not have permission count towards our need rather than supply and therefore the overall need is weighted significantly towards the first five years. The full 2018 GTAA report can be viewed here.

GTAA Need Assessment

2.6 Ashford's overall 5-year 'cultural' need was identified as 194 pitches in the GTAA. Subtracting the supply (140 pitches at the time of the GTAA) this created a 5-year pitch need of 54. However when reduced to those only considered to meet the PPTS definition this is calculated as a 5-year need for 37 pitches.

2.7 A longer term need, across the plan period to 2030, also needs to be factored in to the calculations for this plan. The GTAA calculated this requirement through modelling using the collected household data and the ages of children. This modelling assumes 50% of children, once aged 18, will form a new household and this equates to a cultural need of an additional 28 pitches, reduced to 17 for those only meeting the PPTS definition.

Current Need Assessment

2.8 Continuing work on the site and pitch detailed assessments and through the bi-annual caravan counts has enabled officers to re-assess the current pitch supply and the data used for the base date of the GTAA (April 2018). This has highlighted some discrepancies or administrative errors in the original GTAA data. These have now been rectified, which has led to the identification of an additional existing supply of 8 pitches in the borough than originally counted and we have updated the baseline to reflect this (See 2019 figures in Table 1 below).

2.9 Also, since the April 2018 base date of the GTAA, there have been a number of planning permissions granted for permanent pitches including 3 pitches on the Local Plan 2030 site allocations. This has provided an additional supply of 10 pitches (as of December 2019).

2.10 Using the factually updated supply data detailed above of the additional 8 pitches and the new supply of 10, the remaining need figure has been updated, shown in Table 1 on the next page.

2.11 As set out in the section above, the Table shows the pitch need for all those that culturally consider themselves as Gypsies and Travellers (Cultural Need), and then is reduced to show the need if only those that meet the PPTS definition are considered (PPTS need). More information about the PPTS planning definition of a Gypsy and Traveller can be found in the next section of this report.

Table 1: GTAA Need (April 2018) Vs Current Need (November 2019)

Need Cultural Need Of which: PPTS Need
GTAA 2018 data Updated 2019 data GTAA 2018 data Updated 2019 data

5-year pitch need

(2017/18 to 2021/22)

54 46* 37 32*

Longer term need

(2022/23 to 2030)

28 28 17 17
Total Pitch need to 2030 82 74 54 49
Minus 10 Pitches delivered since April 2018
Remaining Pitch Need 72 64 44 39

 

2.12 * The GTAA originally counted PPTS need as 69% of Cultural need - this % has been continued in the 2019 data update so the Cultural Need is reduced by 8 pitches and PPTS Need is reduced by 5 Pitches.

2.13 The data for current pitches and the evolving supply will continue to be monitored and updated at each stage of the plan production. See Chapter 6 for more information on how we propose to monitor pitch supply.

PPTS Definition Need Vs Cultural Need

What is the PPTS definition of a Gypsy or Traveller?

2.14 The PPTS 2015 Annex 1[2] revised the definition of who is considered a Gypsy or Traveller for planning purposes. This revision no longer includes those who have ceased travelling permanently for any reason. The PPTS only requires councils to meet the accommodation needs of gypsies and Traveller who meet the revised PPTS definition.

2.15 However, further research into this subject is ongoing. In September 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a Research Report [3] on the topic, which highlights that a number of the population still wish to live a nomadic way of life and culturally consider themselves as a Gypsy or Traveller, even if they do not meet the PPTS definition (as they no longer travel).

2.16 The report concludes that not meeting the needs of 'non-PPTS' (cultural need) Traveller may not be in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, as it adds to the inequalities already faced by the cultural group with regard to access to accommodation. It will also affect the elderly and others within the traveller community who can no longer travel for health reasons.

2.17 The research report highlights several authorities that have approached the cultural need or PPTS need issue in different ways to address this. We wish to obtain views on this issue as part of this consultation, as to how it could be addressed in this plan. As detailed in Table 1 (section above), PPTS need calculates at approximately 69% of the cultural need, so there is a large difference in pitches that the plan would need to deliver.

2.18 The first option is to meet the 'PPTS definition' only pitch needs through allocation in the plan (39 pitches). The PPTS is the latest adopted national planning policy position and sets the new definition, with no requirement to meet needs of those that only meet the cultural definition. However, the plan would need to be clear that the remaining cultural need (25 pitches) would be met through general housing need assessments and dealt with as part of the Ashford Local Plan 2030 review.

2.19 A second option is to meet the full 'Cultural' pitch needs through pitch allocation (64 pitches). This would meet the needs of all those who identify as a Gypsy or Traveller, regardless of whether they have ceased travelling permanently and do not meet the PPTS definition. This would ensure that all members of this community have the housing needs addressed specifically through this plan, would ensure that obligations under Equality Act have been met, and provide a more robust position when assessing future planning applications for those that do not meet PPTS needs.

2.20 Option three is that specific pitch allocations can be made to meet PPTS need only and Cultural need applications are dealt with through a separate criteria based ‘windfall’ pitch policy, rather than specific allocation of a site. This could be included as an amendment to adopted Policy HOU16 (windfall pitch policy – see Question 7), but with clear targets and monitoring for ensuring that it delivers the ‘cultural need’ pitches set out as the need in the GTAA, in addition to any emerging or unknown PPTS need not allocated for.

 

Maintaining a 5-year pitch supply - do we need a 'buffer'?

Question Set

2.21 The PPTS requires us to have a continuous 5-year supply of suitable sites/ pitches, which are 'deliverable'[4] . However, the majority of traveller sites are on private land and there are a number of different groups within the travelling community. It is acknowledged that each group has different cultures and site needs and some do not easily share sites. This means that some of the sites / pitches that get allocated in this plan at the next stage, may not end up being available or delivered as expected, which could create a situation in future that there is a risk of not having a 5-year supply, even when allocating pitches to meet the needs.

2.22 Without a 5-year supply of sites/pitches the council fails to meet its obligation under PPTS which has a number of effects. This can directly impact on the wellbeing of the traveller community and, like with housing for the settled population, an insufficient supply weakens the council's ability to resist development in inappropriate locations, leading to appeal permissions on potentially unsuitable sites.

2.23 One option for reducing this risk is to provide a pitch 'buffer' allowance over and above the need identified in Table 1 above. This would enable the Council to retain a continuous 5-year supply in the event that an allocated site/pitch does not come forward, and account for any unknown group or family needs that may emerge over the plan period.

2.24 However, there is no target or guidance for what a 'buffer' should be. It is also dependant on resolving other issues outlined in this report, such as whether need delivered by this plan is 'cultural' or 'PPTS' (see question 2). The higher the pitch supply buffer, the less risk of there is of unsuitable sites obtaining permission or unauthorised sites coming forward.

2.25 A number of sub-options are outlined in Option 1 below about how a ‘buffer’ could be calculated using a percentage of the Cultural or PPTS needs set out in Table 1 on page 9 or another calculation, which we are asking for views on. Option 2 is that there should not be a buffer and that the plan should only meet the identified needs (Cultural or PPTS).

 

4. PPTS 2015 definition of deliverable – ‘To be considered deliverable, sites should be available now, offer a suitable location for development, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that development will be delivered on the site within five years’. [back]

Transit sites

2.26 In addition to the need for permanent pitches to meet the identified needs, the GTAA identifies a requirement for transit site within the borough to meet the short-term accommodation needs of households travelling through. Based on evidence of unauthorised encampment activity, they recommend that 3-5 pitches would address this need.

2.27 Identification of a transit site is difficult as this would likely need to be in public ownership, and managed, monitored and maintained. It may need to be of a size larger than suggested by the GTAA to enable use for larger travelling groups or more than one group. It would also need to be located in a suitable area of the borough; preferably, the urban area close to main transport routes to ensure it met the needs of those travelling through and prevent unauthorised encampments.

2.28 Many of our neighbouring authorities have also had a transit site need identified. Option 1 is that Ashford seeks to address the transit need with our direct neighbouring authorities and Kent County Council (KCC) as a Kent-wide issue, as households travelling through Kent are unlikely to require a transit site within each borough. At present, no discussions have taken place, and therefore the details of how this may work in practice, such as which borough/s would be most suitable and the size of the sites have not been considered.

2.29 There are other options for addressing this issue including the potential of transit pitches being provided within a public site (existing or new) or an allocation of a specific transit site for 3-5 pitches within the borough identified in this plan (Options 2 and 3).

Travelling Showpeople sites

2.30 The GTAA did not identify a need for Travelling showpeople sites during the plan period and in any event, current Policy HOU16 allows for travelling showpeople sites subject to meeting a number of site specific criteria. Therefore any 'windfall' need coming forward in the future can be assessed this way. This consultation document deals with the retention of policy HOU16 following adoption of this plan - see Question 7. If policy HOU16 is not retained or is amended, this plan may need to consider a replacement policy specifically for this Travelling Showpeople need.