Call for change in planning rules as travellers ‘flout laws’

AN MP is calling for a change to the planning laws after a group of travellers bought a piece of land in the East Riding, set up camp, and put in an application for retrospective planning permission.

The travellers bought the land on the outskirts of Keyingham and built a hard-standing area for their caravans, and they are now seeking approval for “continued use of land as a residential gipsy site”.

As well as hosting four caravans, they are also seeking permission to build a toilet block and sewage treatment plant.

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But villagers say they are concerned about the site’s possible impact on the value of their homes – and claim no farmland in the county would be safe if approval is granted.

Keyingham Parish Council will meet tonight to discuss the matter and has invited Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart to attend.

Mr Stuart said: “Residents don’t like the fact that people appear able to move on to land without planning permission, build hard standings and flout the laws that apply to everyone else.

“Having spoken to the East Riding Council I am reassured that this application is being treated like any other application. It is up to the council to determine but, while I have no formal role in the planning process, I am happy to support residents and make sure that they know the most effective way to have their voices heard.”

He added: “This application is for retrospective planning permission which, rightly or wrongly, is a long established part of the planning system and covers anyone, anywhere who builds something without permission.

“I want to see a change in the planning laws, however, so that local communities have more say over what happens in their area.”

Mr Stuart said the coalition Government needed to make “fundamental improvements” to planning laws to restore “the trust and confidence” of residents such as those in Keyingham.

He would like to see changes including: stronger enforcement powers; “light-touch” guidelines to ensure planning rules apply equally to all; the scrapping of regional targets so councils can determine their own housing needs and provision for travellers’ sites; new financial incentives for councils to build authorised travellers’ sites where needed; and new measures to support travellers “who play by the rules”.

The MP said the changes would lead to less friction between travellers and the wider community. A review of planning regulations is currently under way as part of the Localism Bill.

Mr Stuart added: “The reputation of all travellers is harmed by a minority who push the rules to the limit. The changes to the law should stop travellers ‘gaming’ the system by stringing out planning applications which have no chance of success but also allow an improved response to the legitimate needs of law abiding travellers.”

The council said the application would be considered “in due course”.