Traveller Encampments: Legislation Must Be Improved, Says Cheryl Gillan MP

Legislation to prevent inappropriate developments, such as that of the traveller encampment at Holmer Green, must be improved, said Cheryl Gillan MP.

“At the moment, the laws appear weighted in favour of the travellers,” said the MP for Chesham and Amersham.

“Chiltern District Council is, quite rightly, scrupulous about every action it takes, and I appreciate that they have to be because they have a duty of care to the council taxpayers. However, I also appreciate that for people living in the neighbourhood, every delay appears intolerable when they are concerned about the impact on their quality of life. Residents are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of their properties and to expect that anyone else who moves into the neighbourhood will be bound by the same laws and requirements as permanent occupiers.”

Mrs Gillan made representations on behalf of Holmer Green resident to Rt Hon Keith Hill MP, the Minister for Housing and Planning. The Minister has now replied to Cheryl Gillan, in a letter which states: “Travelling Showpeople, whom I understand wish to set up winter quarters at Holmer Green, are bound by the same planning laws as those of the settled community.”

The Minister also told Mrs Gillan: “We are concerned about the increasing number of unauthorised developments generally and the ability of the planning system to respond to them. It is certainly not acceptable for anyone to begin development of land and seek retrospective approval.”

Mr Hill added that local councils do have powers to deal with such unauthorised development, but went on to say:

“We do however recognise that the current enforcement process can be slow and open to abuse, and we have taken steps to ensure that quicker enforcement action can be taken.”

The Minister told Mrs Gillan that councils will be able to take action by seeking a temporary stop notice under the measures contained in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act of 2004.

“The Government has yet to consult on the regulations, to establish the conditions and circumstances in which temporary stop notices can be used,” said Cheryl Gillan. “I hope that these will be resolved quickly to enable local authorities like Chiltern District Council to take rapid action when there are breaches of the law.”