Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Issues and Options

Introduction

Ashford Borough Council are committed to meeting the identified needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community within the borough. In order to meet this need, the Council is in the process of developing a Development Plan Document for Gypsies and Travellers.  This document seeks the views of the Gypsy and Traveller communities, residents and stakeholders, on the issues and options for Gypsy and Traveller site selection in Ashford.

The issues and options outlined within this document are not a statement of intention by Ashford, instead they are designed to highlight the key themes and suggested options upon which we need your views. Consultation on the issues and options report and consideration of the responses to consultation will assist the Council to analyse the merits and drawbacks of all the practical options available for providing sites for Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople. As part of this issues and options consultation, we are seeking to identify suitable sites to consider for inclusion as Gypsy, Traveller and travelling showpeople sites within the DPD.  Suggestions for the inclusion of specific sites are an important aspect of consultation on this particular Issues and Options report.

The format of the report is to provide some background information and then pose a series of questions to help guide responses, and there is the opportunity to raise further issues and options as part of this consultation.

Policy background

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 introduced the requirement for local authorities to replace their Local Plans with Local Development Frameworks. Currently, the Development Plan for Ashford is made up of the Core Strategy, and a number of Development Plan Documents (DPDs). The Core Strategy is the principal Development Plan Document and was adopted in July 2008.  This sets the overarching strategic guidance and principles for development and frames the more detailed policies that are delivered through lower level documents.

The Borough Council has prepared a new local Plan that will cover the period to 2030. This plan was submitted for public examination in December 2017.

The term ‘Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople’ is a broad term that refers to a diverse range of groups with different ethnicities, histories and cultures. Appendix 1 of this document provides some details of cultural definitions as used in this document.

The Equality Act of 2010 provides protection form discrimination based upon, amongst other things, race. The courts have established that because of their ethnic group, Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are protected against race discrimination under the Equality Act.

Why a DPD is needed?

Gypsy and traveller sites can be contentious. The travelling community often believes that inadequate provision is being made for their basic housing needs and the settled community often considers that the travelling community has an unfair advantage. Making adequate site provision will benefit the travelling community and will also enable the Council to take appropriate action against unauthorised developments where necessary.

Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (PPTS) requires that local planning authorities identify and update annually a five year supply of deliverable sites for travellers, and to identify a supply of specific, deliverable sites, or broad locations for years 6-10 and where possible years 11-15.

The DPD will identify a number of sites for potential residential occupation by Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople based upon the numbers identified through an accommodation assessment. A DPD is not to be read in isolation from the Local Plan or other planning documents, and the selected sites will need to be those which are the least in conflict with national and local planning policies and those which are the most acceptable to both the travelling and settled populations. The benefits and disadvantages of the sites which come forward will need to be carefully examined so that sustainability considerations are given particular weight.

The Issues and Options Report has the following aims:

1. To identify the main issues as they relate to locating sites for Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople.

2. To seek and obtain suggestions of specific sites which could be considered for allocation in the Submission Document.

3. To set out a framework for the selection of sites and seek views on the issues and options that have been identified as being important to this process.

4. To invite comments on the types of site to be provided, ownership and management of the sites, where those sites should be located and any other relevant issues which may arise.

The main stages in the preparation of the DPD are as follows:

  1. Formulating the Evidence base
    1. Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment
    2. Issues and Options report - setting out the broad issues and options and seeking views on these through a wide consultation exercise. Responses are then considered and may lead to changes in the matters to be included in the next stage. This Issues and Options report does not suggest specific locations but seeks details of sites to be considered.
  2. Publication of the Draft Development Plan Document
  3. Consultation on the Draft Development Plan Document
  4. Examination in public - this is a hearing conducted by a Planning Inspector. The Council and objectors to the plan are invited to present evidence at the hearing.
  5. Adoption - If the plan is found to be sound as a result of the Examination in Public, it is adopted by the Council and becomes an important tool in the decision making process.

Community Involvement

Community involvement will follow the pattern set out in the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) 2013. The Council's SCI ensures that all sections of the community, including local voluntary and community groups and organisations, key stake holders, Parish Councils, service providers, landowners, individuals and developers, are actively involved throughout the process of preparing Development Plan Documents. In the case of this DPD, it will be particularly important to involve Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople, those groups which represent them, and members of the settled community likely to be affected by the site allocations.

Comments made on the Issues and Options Report will inform the drafting of the document to be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval (the Draft Submission Document). A further full consultation will be carried out on this Draft Submission Document and acceptable changes to the plan will be made in response to the representations received if necessary.

Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

A Sustainability Appraisal or ‘SA’, is an essential part of the preparation of a DPD and the process of preparing the Sustainability Appraisal runs alongside the preparation of the DPD.

What happens next?

Once a period of consultation on this Issues and Options document has been undertaken, the responses received will be taken into account in the next stage of plan preparation. The next stage is the production of the Draft Submission version of the DPD. As a result of public consultation carried out on the Draft Submission Document, minor changes may be agreed and these are notified to the Secretary of State when the DPD is submitted for approval. If as a result of the representations received, it becomes apparent that significant changes are needed, the Council will make appropriate amendments. A period of consultation on the amendments would then be necessary prior to the document being submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.

The DPD will be submitted to the Secretary of State together the Sustainability Appraisal and a summary of the main issues raised in response to the consultation process. The Council will need to explain how issues raised by objectors have been addressed. Matters raised by the DPD and particularly those to which objections have been made, are then discussed at an Examination in Public, which is a hearing chaired by a Planning Inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State.