Pickles seeks to protect green belt from travellers’ camps

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The Government will consider new rules to make it harder for travellers to build permanent encampments on green belt land, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said today.

Guidelines state travellers can only set up their caravans on green belt land in “very special circumstances” but there are fears more permanent mobile homes are being built in many cases.

Mr Pickles said he was now considering new measures to ensure travellers could only reside on green belt land if they had a “transitory lifestyle” which would see them moving on to another site.

Under the last government it was “normally” inappropriate to allow travellers to park their caravans and mobile homes, as well as build houses, on green belt land.

But the coalition has changed the rules to state that both temporary and permanent sites are always inappropriate except in “very special circumstances”.

In a written ministerial statement to MPs, Mr Pickles said he wanted to make the rules even stricter.

He said: “We want to consider the case for changes to the planning definition of ‘travellers’ to reflect whether it should only refer to those who actually travel and have a mobile or transitory lifestyle.

“We are open to representations on these matters and will be launching a consultation in due course.”

In a statement outside the Commons, he added: “It is vitally important to protect our green belt land, but Labour’s rigged planning rules led to waves of unauthorised development and created tensions between travellers and the settled population.

“By giving special treatment to certain minority groups like travellers, Labour’s rules harmed community cohesion and undermined environmental protection.

“We have already given councils new powers to tackle abuse of the planning system and scrapped John Prescott’s politically correct diversity planning guidance, but I want go further to ensure fair play for all.”