Main Modifications to Ashford Local Plan

Policy HOU16 – Traveller Accommodation (MM69)

Amend supporting text to read:

5.108 5.108 The need to plan for the housing requirements of the gGypsy and tTraveller population is in line with Government guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its companion document ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’. These documents ensure that everyone, including members of the travelling community has the opportunity of living in a decent home.

Setting a Pitch Target for Travellers in the Local Plan National Policy

5.109 5.109 The ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ (PPTS, August, 2015) sets out the Government’s planning policy specifically relating to Travellers and this document has the main overarching aim: “to ensure fair and equal treatment for Travellers, in a way that facilitates the traditional and nomadic way of life of Travellers while respecting the interests of the settled community” (paragraph 3). It requires that Local Planning Authorities assess their own levels of need and plan positively in managing Gypsy and Traveller development.

5.111 5.111 The 2015 PPTS [1] replaced the 2012 PPTS, at the same time redefineding the definition of those who qualifies qualify as a 'travellers'[2] as follows: Under the new definition travellers who have ceased to travel are now excluded. The new definition defines travellers as: "Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such". Permissions for Gypsy and Traveller sites will be subject to conditions limiting their occupation to those who meet the definition of Gypsies and Travellers as defined in planning policy.

Objectively Assessing Local Traveller Need

5.113 Therefore, iIn order to achieve the overarching aim of Government policy the Council commissioned a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) in 2013, which provided an Objectively Assessed Pitch Need (OAPN) in the borough. Then following the publication of the new PPTS the Council undertook a piece of work [3], re-assessing the travelling habits of travellers using the GTAA raw data. This piece of work removed any travellers that no longer travel, to ensure that any future need is consistent with the requirements of the PPTS policy. The following results have therefore been defined. 

5.114 The 2013 GTAA outlined a pitch requirement of 57 pitches for the 15-year period 2013 - 2028. However, following reassessment to align the analysis with the 2015 definition, of the base data a new OAPN requirement of 48 pitches between 2013 and 2028 can be has been established. As the Local Plan runs to 2030, on a pro rata basis this would result in an OAPN of 54 pitches by 2030.

How many pitches have been provided to date Pitch provision to date

5.115 The Council has a good record of delivering Traveller pitches on appropriate sites and since the GTAA was published 31 pitches have received full planning permission.

5.116 Using the new OAPN target above, this leaves a residual need to provide at least 23 pitches by 2030.

Achieving Delivering the Objectively Assessed Pitch Need (OAPN)

5.117 The council has considered whether all 23 pitches should be provided through site allocations to ensure the OAPN has been achieved from the outset. However, dDue to the current lack of suitable, available sites, this it has not been possible to deliver a sufficient numbers of pitches required to meet the need. To deliver the remaining need, the council has adopted a staged approach. In the first instance, this plan seeks to deliver sites through allocations and a windfall policy. The Council is proposing to provide 7 3 pitches through site allocations in this plan, see policies S43 and S44, with the remaining 20 pitches to be delivered through a ‘windfall policy’.

Whilst this approach offers an appropriate interim measure, it is the intention to deliver the remaining need through site allocations. For this reason, the Council is in the process of delivering a separate Development Plan Document (DPD) to meet the needs of Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople. The DPD will identify additional sites to meet the need identified in the GTAA.   The timescale for the adoption of the DPD is set out in the Local Development Scheme (March 2018) and adoption is anticipated in summer 2019.

5.118 Also, due to the substantial number of windfall sites that have been delivered since 2013, the Council considers that the remainder of the OAPN requirement is likely to be achieved via a windfall approach. For example, even a modest continued delivery of 2 windfall pitches per year would mean 30 new pitches over 15 years, more than meeting the required need.

5.119 Therefore, the most pragmatic approach for delivery of the OAPN would be to deliver pitches through a combination of windfalls and allocations. At the same time, to ensure resilience in this approach it is proposed to set out a criteria based policy, requiring the retention of all existing Traveller sites to ensure their continual supply in the market.

Traveller Windfall Policy

5.120 To deliver pitches in the period up to the adoption of the DPD, the council will implement a windfall policy. Ashford has a long history of delivering Traveller accommodation, especially through the provision of 'windfalls'. 31 pitches have been provided through this means since the publication of the Borough's GTAA. 

This Local Plan is allocating two sites to provide 7 pitches. Therefore, within this Local Plan there is an interim requirement to provide a minimum of 16 pitches through windfall sites in order to meet the OAPN. Because there is a shortfall of sites coming forward it is considered that the strategy of providing some pitches through windfalls maximises the opportunity for new sites to come forward without relying on a single means of provision, for example the allocation of new sites only.

5.121 A specific, clearly worded windfall policy enables the Council to deal with planning applications for traveller sites on a site by site basis and would allow suitable sites to continue to be permitted until the DPD is adopted, provided they meet criteria set out in the policy. To this end, suitable sites, which are well-related to existing and proposed services and facilities and which would not adversely impact on a protected landscape, including internationally protected sites, AONBs or their settings, National Nature Reserves, SSSIs, Ancient Woodland, local wildlife sites and nature reserves or designated area, that may previously not have been identified have the opportunity to come forward in the plan period. In addition, development should not adversely impact on the key characteristics of Landscape Character Areas.

5.122 The 'windfall' policy below sets out a threshold to provide for additional small sites in the borough. This approach is consistent with the approach set out in the PPTS (Paragraph 10d), which states that in producing Local Plans, Local planning authorities should 'relate the number of pitches or plots to the circumstances of the specific size and location of the site and the surrounding population’s size and density'. 

5.123 Local evidence, identified from the bi-annual gypsy count [4] suggests that Travellers in Ashford tend to reside on small sites which accommodate their immediate and extended family. Coupled with the lack of available land identified in the GTAA and the long standing issues managing larger sites, a number of smaller sites spread throughout the district would be a more effective means of providing sustainable and flexible accommodation to meet the need. 5.124 For example, Tthe Council owned site at Chilmington Green, which has 16 pitches, often has empty and long standing vacant pitches, with Gypsies and Travellers stating themselves that they would rather live with their extended family than on a site which supplies pitches on the open market.

5.124.1 To address the accommodation needs of this group more fully, the Council will prepare a separate Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation DPD, as outlined within the 2017 Local Development Scheme (LDS). 

5.125 Finally, the impact of new Traveller accommodation on existing communities and how well proposals can be integrated is an important consideration in the determination of applications for Traveller provision. New applications will need to adhere to the criteria in Policy HOU16 below to ensure that this impact is mitigated.  

New paragraph after 1.125:

Permissions for Gypsy and Traveller sites will be subject to conditions limiting their occupation to those who meet the definition of Gypsies and Travellers as defined in planning policy.

Amend policy wording as follows:

Policy HOU16 - Traveller Accommodation

Planning permission for expansion to existing sites or new sites to accommodate Gypsy and traveller accommodation or accommodation for travelling showpeople will only be permitted outside of allocated sites if the following criteria are met:

a) The Council is satisfied that there is a clearly established need for the site and the proposals cannot be accommodated on an existing available site or allocated site;

b) The site would not accommodate more than 5 pitches or make an existing site exceed 5 pitches in size;

c) The site would provide a good living environment free from the risk of flooding and risks to health through contamination, noise or pollution;

d) Occupation is limited to those meeting the definition of Gypsies and Travellers or Travelling Showpeople in the relevant national planning policy;

e) Local services and facilities such as shops, public transport, or and schools, medical and social services, can be readily accessed from the site;

f) The site is capable of being provided with on-site services such as water supply, sewage disposal and power supply;

g) The form and extent of the accommodation does not adversely affect the visual or other essential qualities of the AONB and its setting, SSSI, Ancient woodland, international, national or local nature reserve or wildlife site., or the key characteristics of a Landscape Character Area;

h) Access to the site which does not endanger highway safety for vehicles and pedestrians can be provided;

i) Proposals incorporate a landscape strategy, which will be required by use of planning conditions, where mitigation of the impact on the landscape is necessary to protect the quality of the surrounding landscape.

Add additional policy criteria:

j) The scale and siting of the site, along with its design, layout and any boundary treatments, should take into account the key characteristics of Landscape Character Area within which it is located.

k) New sites or enlargement of existing sites are of a scale appropriate to their surroundings and would not individually or cumulatively dominate the nearest settled community, cause significant visual harm to an area and its landscape, or unduly impact on the capacity of local services.

[1] In accordance with PPTS, Annex 1 (4), the term “travellers” refers to “gypsies and travellers” and “travelling showpeople”

[2] Ashford Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Update Paper – Post PPTS (Aug 2015)

[3] See ABC update paper (June 2016)

[4] See ABC update paper (June 2016)