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Frequently asked questions about the Gypsy and Traveller site consultation

Frequently asked questions about the Gypsy and Traveller site consultation

This consultation has now closed.

Details of when the results will be published and next steps are on the Gypsy and Traveller sites consultation page.

We put together some frequently asked questions about the consultation, and our need to find two permanent pitches to accommodate Gypsy and Traveller families.

In carrying out this work we are complying with several different Goverment policies and pieces of legislation. 

Housing and Planning Act (2016)
Section 124 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 specifies that local housing authorities should consider the needs of people "residing in or resorting to their district with respect to the provision of sites on which caravans can be stationed, or places on inland waterways where houseboats can be moored".

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published draft guidance on how it expects local authorities to interpret this provision, you can read the guidance here

Planning Policy for Travellers Sites
The national planning guidance set out in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites is to be read alongside the general policies of the National Planning Policy Framework.

The guidance places a requirement on local authorities to set pitch targets for Gypsies and Travellers and plot targets for Travelling Showpeople which address the likely permanent and transit site accommodation needs of their area.

National planning policy defines gypsies and 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”.

To set those pitch and plot targets local authorities should prepare and maintain an up-to-date understanding of accommodation need using a robust evidence base.

In addition to setting pitch targets local authorities are required to identify a supply of specific deliverable sites, sufficient to provide five years’ worth of sites against the locally set targets. There is also a requirement to plan for a further 10 years’ supply of sites.

It also restricts circumstances in which temporary permission for Gypsy sites may be given in the Green Belt; councils are now expected to 'very strictly limit' new Traveller sites in open countryside.

Equality Act (2010)
The Act does not define race, however case law has established that Roma Gypsies and Irish Travellers are covered by the protected characteristic of race for the Equality Act 2010.

Local authorities have a duty under the Equality Act to actively seek to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and promote good race relations.

Government guidance requires every local authority across England to assess the need for accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers and to identify a supply of sites to meet identified needs.  

An assessment of the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in Derbyshire published in 2015 identified a requirement for four permanent pitches for gypsies and travellers in the borough.  

Two pitches have already been provided, meaning that two further pitches are required.

In order to provide some flexibility, a small reserve pitch may also be allocated.

Gypsies and Travellers face the most serious disadvantages of all ethnic minority groups with a much shorter life expectancy, high child mortality rates and the lowest educational attainment. The lack of legal sites makes accessing key services and facilities much harder. 

When we refer to a 'site' we mean an area where development could take place, not to be confused with a typical caravan 'site' where there could several pitches for a number of caravans or mobile homes.

When we talk about Gypsy and Traveller accommodation 'sites' we are looking at places where one or possibly two family pitches could be created. 

We need to find space for two more family pitches, if we were building in bricks and mortar that would be the same as building two houses.

The two pitches could be on two separate sites - that is, in two different locations in the borough - or we may be able to locate both pitches on the same site.

We already have an established permanent site in Chesterfield that contains two family pitches.

We've shortlisted six sites, but expect to only allocate only one or two accommodate the two extra pitches required.

A family pitch would be need to be a minimum of 500sqm, but ideally would be around 2000sqm to provide space for family growth and a wide landscaping boundary.

The pitch must be able to accommodate a single storey amenity building, a large trailer and touring caravan, parking space for two vehicles and a small garden area. It would also include a static caravan and a hard standing for a storage shed and drying.

It might also include space for family on a short term visit.

As with all other residential properties, each pitch will be assessed by the Valuation Office Agency and given a Council Tax banding. 

Residents will then pay the appropriate level of Council Tax for their property.

Charges for water, electricity and other amenities are also paid on Gypsy and Traveller sites.

Gypsies and Travellers are subject to the same law enforcement rules as the settled community for non-payment of taxes.

Some Gypsies and Travellers are highly mobile, moving around to find work, others live permanently in one area or only travel for a few weeks or months of the year. The main reason for travelling is to work, follow fairs and visit family and so a ‘base’ site is required from which to live when not travelling.

As Gypsies and Travellers grow older and become less able to travel on a regular basis, some require a safe and secure stopping place where they can maintain the cultural traditions of being a Gypsy or Traveller.

Gypsies and Travellers also sometimes stop travelling temporarily to care for sick or elderly relatives or to continue a child’s education. Families will then normally take up the travelling way of life again following these events.

National planning guidance recognises the needs of Gypsies and Travellers even when they may have stopped travelling temporarily or permanently.

Permanent sites can be provided by local authorities, registered providers or owned by Gypsies and Travellers themselves. They are used as a long-term residence and generally have amenities available including a water supply, electricity, individual toilets and utility rooms.

Transit sites are usually more basic and stays are limited to a period set by a site manager. Transit sites allow people to stay legally on serviced land without the need to resort to unauthorised encampment.

There have been a number of opportunities for landowners to put forward sites for consideration for all types of land uses, including traveller pitches:

  • Local Plan Sites and Boundaries Issues and Options document (November 2012)
  • Land Availability Assessment (LAA) Call for Sites (January 2016 – this specifically gave Gypsy and Traveller sites as an option on the response form)
  • Draft local plan (January 2017) 

In addition, Derbyshire County Council was specifically asked if they have land available for allocation as a Gypsy or Traveller site. No sites were put forward as available for Gypsy or Traveller use in response to recent calls for sites or from Derbyshire County Council.

Other sources of land, such as part of large scale housing sites (eg Waterside and Staveley works) and the green belt, were also considered but rejected.

As a result, the focus turned to sites owned by the council. In particular, garage sites were investigated for two main reasons:

  • Our housing service has been carrying out a review of garage plot sites with a view to disposal where appropriate
  • Garage sites tend to be located in or on the edge of the existing urban area and are not ‘large’, therefore are a reasonable potential source of land supply for meeting the borough’s need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.

In order to make the local plan as robust as possible, and the site allocation process transparent and fair, all sites covering a range of uses have been assessed in the same way.

This Land Availability Assessment (LAA) assesses site potential for development and the likelihood of development happening. There are three stages of LAA assessment, plus additional specific criteria for potential Gypsy and Traveller pitches that are required in order to comply with government guidance. The methodology is has been published alongside the consultation report.

Matters that are assessed include:

  • site size and availability
  • physical constraints such as flood risk, land stability, and compatibility with surrounding land uses
  • access to and impact on local highways
  • walking and cycling accessibility to services
  • capacity of physical infrastructure eg water supply
  • capacity of social infrastructure eg schools and GPs
  • impact on green infrastructure eg public open spaces
  • impact on biodiversity and landscape character
  • pollution
  • impact on amenity
  • impact on heritage
  • adequacy of drinking water, sewerage provision and gas or electricity
  • scale of a site in relation to the nearest settled community to which it relates
  • degree to which the site might promote peaceful and integrated co-existence between the sites occupiers and the local community
  • scope for living/work.

A total of 46 garage sites have been assessed. 21 of these were rejected because they did not meet the minimum size threshold and/or were unavailable. Out of the remaining 25 sites, six passed the second and third stages of assessment and have been shortlisted as potential gypsy and traveller pitches.

The public consultation will last for six weeks and will include wide publicity and public drop-in sessions.

Residents’ comments will be fully reported to the council's cabinet, and will inform decisions about which sites are allocated in the new local plan.

Significant levels of objection to a site will not necessarily mean that a site is not considered suitable for allocation, but it may inform any measures that need to be in place to try and overcome any concerns. For example, this could be in terms of access arrangements or landscaping to provide privacy.

If sites can be identified through the planning process it should reduce the need for unauthorised encampments, which often cause conflict with the settled community and can cost the council money if legal action has to be taken.

It is better for all members of the community if sites can be identified by agreement following consultation in suitable locations as it provides an opportunity for communities to have their say before any decisions are made on sites.

By taking a positive approach we should have greater control over the type, location and size of sites. It also means that if illegal encampments occur in the borough we will be far more likely to be successful if we have to take legal action.

We would not normally grant planning permission for a house to be built on a site allocated for Gypsy and Traveller pitches. 

Yes. A Gypsy or Traveller can live and work from a site provided there are no unacceptable impacts on highway safety and the local environment (including future and neighbouring occupier’s amenities).

This would take into account matters such as:

  • the impact of noise from working and disturbance from traffic
  • local ecology
  • prominence to view
  • access and boundary treatments.

Employment uses would require separate planning consent. Conditions can be imposed on any planning permission to restrict commercial activities on site.

If we don't allocate sites then the local plan may not be considered ‘sound’ by a planning inspector.

This means that development could instead take place in areas that the council and communities want to protect such as the green spaces between settlements.

There is also a risk that if the council doesn’t have a local plan in place, the government will step in and there will be a loss of local control over where development goes in the borough.

The council aims to publish a final local plan for public consultation in summer 2018, and this will include any proposed Gypsy and Traveller site allocations.

After this, the planning team will make any changes to the plan resulting from the consultation, and then send the local plan in to the government, who will appoint an independent planning inspector to hold a public examination of the plan, which will consider any objections.

Everyone who makes an objection has the right to appear at the public examination. The inspector will then make recommendations for the council to consider.

If sites are allocated, they will still have to go through the planning application process to determine the detailed aspects of development such as design, highways access and landscaping before development can commence.

Last updated on 30 April 2018