Changes to the Proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan….
What’s been happening?
At the beginning of 2013, as part of the development of a Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan, Central Bedfordshire Council (“CBC“) commissioned an assessment of the accommodation needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community. The assessment estimated that the Gypsy and Traveller community population would increase by 2.5% per annum and based on this growth rate, calculated that an additional 157 pitches would be required by 2031 to fulfil the Gypsy and Traveller need. As such, CBC carried out an assessment of 35 sites throughout Central Bedfordshire, to consider whether they would be suitable for development as a Gypsy and Traveller site.
One of the sites, Site 20, located at Duckend Farm to New Road, Maulden, was assessed and considered suitable for potential development.
Maulden Against Site 20, a subcommittee created to support the Parish Council and local residents in raising objections against the development of Site 20, together with the Parish Council, made vigorous representations and raised considerable public awareness against the proposal to develop Site 20.
Following a period of pre-consultatation, a committee of CBC made a recommendation that seven sites should form part CBC’s Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan and as such, Site 20 was not put forward for further development. Accordingly, Maulden against Site 20 was disbanded as it had achieved its purpose and this remains the case today.
However, following a new assessment of the accommodation needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community (2014), it was noted that there was an increased need for accommodation and as such, the original proposal to create 157 pitches would be insufficient. Accordingly, a meeting of the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee was held on 14 January 2014 to discuss the new assessment and changes to the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan and in particular, how these additional pitches would be found.
Meeting on 14 January 2014 –
Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee
The official minutes of the meeting can be found online at Central Bedfordshire Council.
What happened at the meeting? – The compound growth rate
The committee discussed at length the appropriate growth rate which should be used to calculate the future population of the Gypsy and Traveller community. CBC’s Local Development Framework (this is the document which sets out CBC’s development strategies and policies for the settled population) includes designs and plans up until 2031 and as such, CBC wanted to ensure that it’s Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan would also accommodate Gypsy and Traveller need until this time. It is important for a council to have a Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan in place as, in the event a local council does not have one and is unable to demonstrate that it has considered the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in the same way as other sectors of the community and has further failed to select and allocate land for additional pitches, it is extremely difficult for a council to remove unauthorised encampments and temporary planning permission for such sites is more likely to be given.
As a consequence of the assessment of accommodation need in 2013, CBC had originally agreed to use a compound growth rate of 2.5% per annum to identify the future Gypsy and Traveller accommodation need. As such, CBC had originally decided it needed to ensure it could provide 157 pitches and therefore drafted its original Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan on this basis. However, following a recent successful appeal against a refusal to grant planning permission for a Gypsy and Traveller site in Central Bedfordshire, the Inspector who overturned CBC’s planning refusal and subsequently granted temporary planning permission, expressed concern that the assessment of accommodation need (2013) had used a compound growth rate of 2.5% and stated that this was too low and that a 3% rate was more appropriate (footnote 1).
(CBC is currently seeking a judicial review of the decision to grant temporary planning permission, the outcome of which could have an impact upon the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.)
In light of the Inspector’s report, the committee discussed whether it should use a higher compound growth rate (so as to ensure that should an illegal encampment be set up and any decision to refuse planning permission be subsequently appealed, the council would have better grounds to refute the appeal). However, in the committee’s opinion, there was no evidence to support a compound growth rate of 3% and in light of local evidence, it was recommended that a growth rate of 2% be used instead. (The committee did recognise that the use of this growth rate may possibly lead to the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan being deemed unsound. However, it was felt that there was enough local evidence to demonstrate why a 2% growth rate was more than sufficient).
Accordingly, applying this revised growth rate, it was noted that there is now a requirement for 131 new pitches for Gypsies and Travellers (as opposed to 157) and 20 for Travelling Show people. As the number of pitches required has decreased, there was no requirement for the committee to consider how it would allocate additional sites and therefore Site 20 was not reconsidered for development.
Recommendations to the Executive
The committee put forward a recommendation to the Executive as follows-
- That the Gypsy, Traveller and Showperson Accommodation Assessment 2014, conducted by ORS, be endorsed subject to the amendments made to the Assessment during the course of the meeting.
- That 131 Gypsy and Traveller pitches and 20 plots for Travelling Showpeople be allocated in the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan up to 2031.
- That the specific sites be allocated as follows in order to meet the pitch requirements for Gypsy and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople up to 2031:-
p>Site 16 – Barton 15 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 26 – Dunton Lane 15 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 92 – Caddington 9 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 116 – Pulloxhill 13 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 76 – Fairfield 10 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 78 – Tingrith 4 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers
Site 82 – 4 plots to be allocated as a Gypsy and Travelling Showperson site.
What does this mean for Site 20?
Accordingly, at this time, Site 20, has not been included as part of the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.
What will happen next?
Following an endorsement of the committee’s recommendations by the Executive on 21 January 2014, Full Council will now consider the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan. If approved, the proposed Plan will be published in February and a six week formal consultation period will follow during which people will have an opportunity to make any appropriate representations. Any necessary amendments will be made to the Plan before they are formally submitted to the Secretary of State for examination in June 2014. The Plan will then go before the Planning Inspector who will identify whether he believes the plan to be “sound”. If deemed “sound”, CBC will then adopt the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.
What should you do if you have concerns?
If you have any concerns about the proposed sites and wish to make a representation, you should address your concerns directly to CBC.
The future of Site 20
For the time being, Site 20 does not form part of the proposed Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan. However, the Plan does need further approval and there is still the question over whether the lower compound growth rate will cause the Plan to be deemed unsound, particularly if a pending judicial review decision is not favourable to CBC. In the event that the Plan is not approved, it may mean that CBC has to reconsider all the proposed sites once again.
Sadly, there are, therefore, no guarantees that Site 20 will not be reconsidered in the future.
The evidence for requiring a “3% growth rate” appears to come only from an example working in The Communities and Local Government guideline paper for Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7838/accommneedsassessments.pdf
Other rates are used elsewhere. 3% is suggested by Pat Niner, Local Authority Gypsy/Traveller Sites in England, ODPM. A 3% growth rate was also used in the report from The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) (2006/7) Preparing Regional Spatial Strategy reviews on Gypsies and Travellers by regional planning bodies.’. Some larger metropolitan areas have forecast growth rates in the range of 3% to 5%