Parliamentary debate argues for reform of planning system’s approach to gypsies and travellers

Rugby and Bulkington MP Mark Pawsey has joined other MPs in calling for reforms in the way the planning system balances the interests of Gypsies, Travellers and the settled community in places like Bulkington and Barnacle.

This debate, on Gypsies, Travellers and the planning system, heard from MPs including Mark who raised concerns that travellers can seem to have preferential treatment within the planning system. A number of MPs referred to challenges in their local area with unauthorised encampments and the perception that travellers’ applications are judged differently within the planning system. Rugby and Bulkington has experienced a number of these issues, leading to Rugby Borough Council to seek an injunction preventing unauthorised encampments on council land.

Mark highlighted how initially unauthorised encampments have developed in villages like Barnacle, Shilton and Bulkington due to retroactive consents being granted by the planning inspector – often after the local councillors have refused them. Many of these sites are in the green belt which is considered inappropriate for development and the cumulative impact of traveller camps substantially changes the character of the settled villages.

Speaking after the debate, Mark said:

“Inappropriate development of traveller pitches is a long-standing issue for many of the rural villages in Rugby as well as in Bulkington. In some cases, there are perceived advantages being provided to the traveller community over the settled community through the planning system as consents are granted for traveller pitches which would be refused for any other application. Whilst the needs of the travelling community’s lifestyle must be respected, it is important that the planning system is seen to be fair to all parties.”

Mark continued:

“I am very pleased that the Government recognises there are issues within the planning system and is committing to look carefully at how the needs of the settled and travelling communities can be better balanced. Along with a number of my colleagues, I will be meeting the Government Ministers to discuss this further and I will continue to raise the concerns of residents in Bulkington, Barnacle and other villages at this meeting.”

Mark concluded:

“Protecting the green belt is something I know is important to local residents and it must be protected by planning law. Although temporary consents can on some occasions be appropriate, there is a lot of evidence this process is being abused and therefore harming the green belt. As such, I hope the government will take on my comments and the comments of my colleagues in their forthcoming review of the planning system.”