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Unauthorised Encampments

Volume 519: debated on Thursday 25 November 2010

Local authorities will be responsible for determining the right level of Traveller site provision in their area to meet local needs and historic demands. We will encourage councils to provide sites with incentives through the new homes bonus scheme and grant funding for local authorities to deliver new sites.

Will my right hon. Friend give us some idea of the time frame for the withdrawal of planning order circular 01/06? In the meantime, does he take the view that the Government’s intention to withdraw this circular should be a material consideration at both the planning and appeal stage?

We have certainly stated our intention to repeal circular 01/06 and we shall shortly start consultation on an alternative to it. In the meantime, given that the localism Bill will substantially change planning on these matters, I can say that our intention almost certainly is a material consideration.

Residents of the village of Normandy in my constituency are fed up with the never-ending cycle of encampments on green-belt fields, retrospective planning applications and seemingly unenforceable planning refusals. Does my right hon. Friend really believe that the measures he has described will provide a proper and permanent solution for my concerned constituents?

The short answer to that is, of course, yes.

I am afraid that the policy pursued by the last Government left us in a very difficult position. Let me give an indication of how difficult it has become. I remind Members that in 1997 there were 887 unlawful encampments. That figure was bad enough, but it has now shot up to 2,395. As for the second part of my hon. Friend’s question, we intend to restrict retrospective planning applications substantially.

May I warn the Secretary of State of a new type of unauthorised encampment? In my city of Nottingham, the chief executive of Framework, a major charity for the homeless, warned this week that there would be hundreds of rough sleepers in tents in the woods or in sheds on industrial estates as a result of the swingeing cuts that the Secretary of State has implemented in the Supporting People budget. Will he please think again?

I think that the hon. Gentleman may be a little mistaken. As he will know, the Government have passported £6.5 billion to local authorities to support people, and we expect that money to be passed on to the most vulnerable.

Does the Secretary of State agree that no element of human rights legislation contains any provision allowing antisocial behaviour, or enshrining any kind of right or protection allowing people in unauthorised encampments to participate in such behaviour?

We are trying to achieve a balanced approach. The last policy was unrealistic. To hit the 2011 targets set by the last Government, we would have to wait for a further 18 years because we are so far behind. I believe that that policy was predicated on conflict, whereas we want to ensure that there is firm action on retrospective planning applications and enforcement. We will end the continuous process of appeal on application, subsequent application and stop notice, but at the same time we hope to introduce mainstream provision for Travellers by including provisional sites in the new homes bonus.