The Leader of Epping Forest District Council will appeal directly to the Government for the removal of the Direction requiring the Council to consult upon and develop a separate Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document. The letter to Right Honourable John Healey MP, Minister for Housing and Planning within the Department of Communities and Local Government was recommended at the Cabinet meeting on 4 January to Full Council on 19 January for final approval.
Councillor Di Collins will publish a letter on behalf of the Council drawing attention to the substantial increase in provision of authorised pitches since the Government Direction. She will state that the workload associated with continuation of the Government Direction is putting other planning priorities at risk. She will seek approval for the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document to be subsumed within the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. She will seek support from all three local MPs and the Shadow Minister.
Councillors also asked Councillor Collins to remind the Minister that the new planning framework was supposed to streamline processes and reduce costs. The Direction seems to have created the opposite effect. Councillors complimented the local community for the amount of work that had gone into the responses to the consultation and stressed that this evidence base was a key input to further work on the DPD.
Epping Forest District Council is required to identify space to accommodate a minimum of 34 additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches by 2011. Through the normal planning process, permissions and approvals have reduced this figure to about 20. However, more than 10,500 people responded individually or as part of groups to the consultation on potential sites. This led to a massive evaluation exercise for Council staff which has taken far longer than the Government timetable envisaged.
The Council wants to streamline the process by subsuming the Gypsy and Traveller issues into the Core Strategy as part of the Local Development Framework. The LDF replaces the Local Plan as the `blue-print` for policies against which future planning applications are judged. Completion of the LDF is considered vital by the Council as it prepares with Harlow and East Herts District Councils to implement the recommendations of the East of England Plan.
The Council will continue the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document pending the Minister`s response.
Councillor Di Collins said: There is enormous strength of feeling among residents and councillors. We believe the original Government Direction was flawed. We are now appealing to the Minister to look at the outcome of that Direction – the process that Epping Forest District Council has followed – and listen to local residents and councillors and the evidence we have already collected. If he listens, I believe he must understand that the Direction should be lifted and local people should be trusted with the power to make decisions for ourselves.