Gypsy and Traveller Plan Site Options

Gypsy and Traveller Plan Site Options May 2014

1. Introduction

1.1. The Government believes that everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home. Ensuring the availability of decent homes is considered a key element of any thriving, sustainable community, and is true for both the settled and Gypsy and Traveller communities alike.

1.2. Through its national planning policy, the Government is committed to ensuring fair and equal treatment for gypsies and travellers. In order to achieve this Local Planning Authorities should make their own assessment of need across their District or Borough, and seek to plan positively in line with the principles of sustainable development.

1.3. This Gypsy and Traveller Plan - Site Options Consultation document is the first stage in the consultation process for the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Plan. The consultation presents an initial assessment of the site options proposed to the Council and identified by it. Inclusion in this document does not necessarily mean that a site will be taken forward as the plan progresses to examination and adoption. The Council will positively consider any proposed alternatives to the sites in this consultation document. The Gypsy and Traveller Plan, once adopted, will form part of the LDF/Local Plan, and will allocate a number of suitable and deliverable sites that provide for the identified accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers across Sevenoaks District. It is critical, therefore, that the suitability and deliverability of sites is robustly assessed and that sound planning reasons can be presented by the Council when proposing or rejecting sites. Before the Council can adopt a Gypsy and Traveller Plan it must be subjected to independent examination and found sound by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector.

1.4. The Council undertook a Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment (GTTAA) in March 2012.  The GTTAA is the key evidence base document for identifying the need across Sevenoaks District. The study identified a need for 40 pitches to be delivered over the period 2012-2016 (when applying the planning definition tests of Gypsies and Travellers) and a subsequent need for a further 32 pitches over the period 2017 to 2026 (a total of 72 over the period 2012-2026).

1.5. It is important to plan to meet this need, as without the identification of suitable sites, the Council will find it hard to resist new proposals for sites across the District, regardless of their location, as strategic provision will not have been identified. Initial assessments have been conducted on the constraints of each site option, according to the criteria adopted in Core Strategy Policy SP6 for their potential suitability to provide Gypsy and Traveller accommodation. These criteria are outlined in para 6.5 of this document and the views of all stakeholders are now being sought on these sites, as well as an opportunity to put forward other sites that may be considered more suitable.

1.6. The responses made during the consultation, along with any additional sites suggested, will be duly considered and will assist in informing the next stages of the Gypsy and Traveller Plan preparation, which will put forward the Council's preferred options.