Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

8.45 The accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers should be considered along with the housing needs of the whole community. Their specific accommodation needs are recognised in Circular 01/2006: Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites (2006) which requires local authorities to set out in their Core Strategies the criteria to be used to guide the allocation of gypsy and traveller sites in a relevant development plan document. It is important that such sites are in locations that provide residents reasonable access to adequate health and education facilities and are outside areas that have a high risk of flooding. The Circular also expects local authorities to carry out a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA)[1] in order to find out the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in their area. The Government also provides advice on the design of Gypsy and Traveller sites.[2]

8.46 The Somerset Councils are in the process of preparing a County-wide GTAA which is due for publication in October 2010. The data collected through this process will inform any future development plan documents. The GTAA will provide information on the level of need in the District. Having undertaken this work, if it is clear that there is still an unmet requirement for sites then the Council will consider allocation of sites in a subsequent development plan document. The aspiration is however, is through positive action, to encourage private planning applications and to identify public land to accommodate any shortfall in provision so that need is met without recourse to a further Development Plan Document.

8.47 Circular 04/2007 Planning for Travelling Showpeople (August 2007) requires the housing needs of Travelling Showpeople to also be assessed by the GTAA and a figure will be derived from this exercise. In general, Travelling Showpeople do not share the same cultural traditions as Gypsies and Travellers and their sites are normally mixed use, both business and residential use in order to accommodate the need to store and repair their vehicles. Because of this their sites may have more of an impact on the surrounding area both visually and acoustically.

8.48 It is recognised that land within settlements which is suitable for the housing needs of the settled community may also be suitable for the Gypsies, Travellers or Travelling Showpeople however the cost of this land may often be beyond their reach.

8.49 The District Council monitors the delivery of sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople through the planning application process and this practice will continue. Circular 01/2006 defines Gypsies and Travellers whilst Circular 04/2007 defines Travelling Showpeople and for planning purposes these definitions will be applied. The criteria set out in this policy will guide the allocation of sites in any future development plan document and any planning applications that may come forward as rural exception sites either before the development plan document is prepared or in addition to sites allocated.

8.50 Options considered included a policy incorporating criteria relating to site access, parking and road safety of occupants, landscaping and visual amenity, proximity to contaminated land and access to the highway network, or to include all these with the addition of a criteria relating to proximity to local services such as shops and schools. In order to ensure the most sustainable option is taken forward, the preferred approach is to have a policy incorporating proximity to schools and community facilities as this is key to helping to promote an integrated co-existence between the occupants of the site and the settled community. ODPM Circular 01/2006 states that in assessing the suitability of sites in rural locations, local authorities should be realistic about the availability, or likely availability, of alternatives to the car in accessing local facilities.

8.51 Circular 01/2006[3] expects issues such as safe access from the public highway and the provision of space for parking, turning and on site servicing of vehicles to be taken into account as well as the road safety of occupants and visitors. The Circular also expects local planning authorities to identify sites that might be suitable for mixed residential and business uses, or where this is not possible, consider having separate sites for residential and business use close to each other although mixed use sites are not permittied on rural exception sites.[4]

8.52 Advice on the design and layout of Gypsy and Traveller sites can be found in Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites Good Practice Guide (CLG, 2008). The guidance states that although there is not one ideal site size, past experience of residents and managers suggest that a maximum of 15 pitches provides a comfortable environment within which to live and is easy to manage. Smaller sites of 3 and 4 pitches can also work well, particularly when designed to accommodate an extended family. Experience in South Somerset suggests that small family owned sites are favoured by applicants. The Council will be seeking to establish such small pitch sites on any publicly provided sites within the District.

Policy HG6 Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling showpeople

The accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople will be met by ensuring that they are accommodated in sustainable locations where essential services are available. The following criteria will guide the location of sites:

  • Significantly contaminated land should be avoided;
  • Land within internationally and nationally recognised designations (for example Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) should be avoided;
  • The development should not have a significant adverse impact on the landscape character and visual amenity of the area;
  • The site is reasonably well related to schools and other community facilities;
  • The health and safety of occupants and visitors will not be at risk through unsafe access to sites, noise pollution or unacceptable flood risk;
  • There should be adequate space for on site parking, servicing and turning of vehicles;
  • The option of mixed residential and business use on sites will be considered where appropriate.

The number of pitches provided should be appropriate to the size of the site and availability of infrastructure, services and facilities in accordance with the general principles set out in the settlement hierarchy.

1. This is also required by The Housing Act 2004 [back]
2. Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites, Good Practice Guide, CLG, May 2008 [back]
3. Annex C – Good Practice - Criteria [back]
4. Paragraph 56 [back]