In a strongly worded letter, Epping Forest District councillors are demanding a ministerial meeting to review the Government Direction for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision in Epping Forest District.
At the Full Council meeting on 19 January 2010, Councillor Di Collins, Leader of the Council received the go ahead to issue the demand to The Right Honourable John Healey MP, Minister for Housing and Planning.
In the letter, Councillor Collins draws the Minister`s attention to the substantial increase in provision of authorised pitches since the Government Direction. She states 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. The support of all three local MPs and the Shadow Minister has also been sought.
The Minister is reminded that the new planning framework was supposed to streamline processes and reduce costs. The Government Direction seems to have created the opposite effect.
In presenting the latest report and letter to the Council, Councillor Collins emphasised the importance of the role played by the local community in helping to form the evidence to back up the Council`s demands.
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: The Minister needs to listen to local residents and apply a common sense approach. Circumstances have changed. If the original Government Direction was ever necessary or appropriate, it certainly is not now. It is hampering everyone`s efforts, costing a huge amount of money and preventing the Council from moving forward on other important parts of the Local Development Framework. Enough is enough!