Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE: 15 JUNE 2016
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 6 JUNE 2016
C3206 VALE OF GLAMORGAN GYPST AND TRAVELLER ACCOMMODATION ASSESSMENT MAY 2016 (RE & HSCH) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEES - HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES AND ENVIRONMENT AND REGENERATION) –
Cabinet was updated on matters related to Gypsy and Traveller accommodation that had emerged as a result of the on-going Local Development Plan process, and approval was sought for a suggested way forward and for the adoption of the Vale of Glamorgan Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) May 2016 attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The assessment of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs, and the duty to make provision for Gypsy and Traveller sites where the Assessment identifies unmet need, became statutory requirements under Section 103 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Cabinet were apprised of the requirement to undertake a GTAA on 27 July, 2015 (Cabinet minute C2877 refers) and of the work of the GTAA Steering Group in the Vale of Glamorgan and recommended that a further Cabinet report be submitted outlining the outcome of the Assessment prior to its submission to Welsh Government.
The 2013 GTAA informed the draft Local Development Plan (LDP) for the Vale of Glamorgan. Welsh Government Guidance required Local Planning Authorities to accommodate any unmet need identified in their area within the Development Plan. The LDP was being considered at the Examination in Public. Sessions were held between January and April this year and the Council was working on Action Points arising from those sessions with a view to preparing a Matters Arising Changes (MAC) Schedule for public consultation later this year. The LDP for the Vale of Glamorgan contained a specific policy (MG5) to allocate a new Gypsy and Traveller site at Hayes Road, Sully. The allocation was proposed as a response to the unmet need identified in the 2013 GTAA.
At the LDP hearing session held on 22 March, 2016, the Inspector was advised that a new GTAA was in the process of being prepared in accordance with section 101 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. This resulted in the Inspector making the following action point:
“Action Point 2: Council to submit the updated Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (currently being prepared). The Council should also submit a Position Paper outlining the implications for the Plan, including how the needs of permanent, tansit and traveling show people should be addressed within the Plan - identifying new allocations if necessary. Also include monitoring indicators within the Plan as necessary.”
The Inspector required the final version of the document, once published, together with an explanation of the implications of the result of the Assessment and how the Council proposed to address the need identified in the final version of the Assessment. The Inspector confirmed that he would give the new assessment ‘substantial weight’.
In addition to the above, due to a flooding constraint affecting the Hayes Road Site that the Inspector considered could not be overcome or mitigated, he also directed the following action point:
“Action Point 5: In light of C2 flooding constraints, delete “Hayes Road, Sully” as a Gypsy and Traveller allocation. Council to provide an update as to how it wishes to address the resulting shortfall within the Plan (including any additional need identified under Action Point 2 above).”
The Inspector also considered the Council’s duty under section 103 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, which required Local Housing Authorities to meet any unmet need identified in an approved Assessment. In view of this duty, the Inspector was of the view that the Plan was unlikely to be found sound should the plan not allocate sufficient land to accommodate any need identified in the new GTAA.
The Current Draft version of the new GTAA (attached at Appendix 1 to the report) identified a total of 19 Gypsy and Traveller families living in the Vale of Glamorgan, which included one family at Llangan, one family at Twyn Yr Odyn, Wenvoe, and 17 on the Hayes Road site in Sully. Whilst there was one vacant authorised permanent private residential pitch in the Vale of Glamorgan, it was not currently available for rent or sale. Accordingly, there were currently no authorised sites within the Vale of Glamorgan that could accommodate any of the 19 families identified.
The land at Hayes Road, Sully was owned by the Council and since January 2012 had been an unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller site, occupied by New Age Travellers and Travelling Show People. During the consultation period for the new GTAA, discussions were undertaken with twelve occupants of the site by Tai Pawb, a specialist organisation that was set up to promote equality in housing. During the discussions the occupants made it very clear that they would not live on a Gypsy and Traveller site that met the requirements of the Welsh Government Guidance 'Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites, May 2015'. Their requirement was for a piece of land that they could self-manage and self-design.
Chapter five of the Welsh Government GTAA Guidance, set out how Local Authorities should consider meeting their unmet need identified in the Assessment. Three options for meeting the need were set out in the guidance, one of which encouraged the Local Authority 'working proactively with Gypsy or Traveller households to develop a more community led approach such as a Community Land Trust (CLT)' (paragraph 240). The Guidance also stated that such an approach 'may be more attractive than living on Local Authority sites to certain communities, for example, New Travellers' (paragraph 245).
In undertaking the GTAA, regard was given to the Welsh Government GTAA Guidance, which advised at paragraph 146 as follows:
“146. Local Authorities should not include households on ‘tolerated’ sites within current residential supply unless the site has been provided with assurances that no planning enforcement action will be taken against the site within the subsequent 5 year period.”
Given, the situation that existed at Hayes Road, careful regard had been paid to the most appropriate way forward. The report was mindful of the need to progress the LDP, a key strategic document, as well as the need to provide a realistic and appropriate site for Gypsy and Travellers, which would require meaningful engagement with the travellers currently occupying the Hayes Road site. In addition, the lack of a readily alternative site meant that the prospect of success in seeking the eviction of travellers from the Hayes Road site was low. In accordance with the above guidance, the report proposed that Cabinet agree to issue the occupiers of the Hayes Road, Sully site with written assurance that no planning enforcement action would be pursued against the residential use of the site within the subsequent five years from the date of the letter. This would allow the Council the opportunity to work with the travellers to identify a new site, within the spirit of the advice contained within the Welsh Government GTAA Guidance.
Notwithstanding the above, the Council's obligation under the Welsh Government Guidance in Circular 30/2007 on 'Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Sites' would still remain, which was to accommodate the needs of Gypsies and Travellers over the Development Plan Period (i.e. beyond the 5 years of the draft GTAA). As such, it was proposed that the Llangan site was allocated in the LDP as the Gypsy and Traveller allocation for 2 pitches, formally accommodating the need identified on the Llangan site itself and the Wenvoe site (following the expiry of the temporary planning permission, and in the event that no further planning permission was either sought or obtained).
The GTAA further indicated that there was not a need for the Council to provide a transit site in the Vale of Glamorgan at this time, but recommended that it continued to monitor the number of unauthorised encampments and gave consideration to the use of short term toleration or Negotiated Stopping Arrangements to deal with short term transient stops.
In light of the included evidence and background, the report's recommendations sought to satisfy the Council's duties as Housing and Local Planning Authority in respect of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs in the Vale of Glamorgan and comply with the requirement of the LDP Inspectors requirements.
At the meeting, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education commented that the determination that enforcement action in respect of a breach of planning control was not expedient to pursue was a matter that was normally dealt with by officers in the day to day work of the Council’s enforcement team. However as this matter was linked to the LDP and the GTAA, and given the sensitivity around the issues, it was thought advisable to bring these matters together and take them to Cabinet in a single report. She further commented that the Council’s priority was seeking effective ways forward by working with affected groups to develop a sustainable solution, and invited the Principal Appeals and Enforcement Officer to speak.
The Principal Appeals and Enforcement Officer commented that the section of the Housing (Wales) Act that required the Council to carry out a GTAA and determine need had, very recently, come into effect. Accordingly, she stated that in other previous cases Local Authorities had been allowed to find alternative Gypsy and Traveller sites during the monitoring of the LDP process, thus allowing their LDPs to be approved. However, the Inspector was not satisfied with such an approach given the introduction of the new requirements of the Housing (Wales) Act.
The Principal Appeals and Enforcement Officer confirmed that the duty imposed under Section 103 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 would not apply if an assurance was in place that planning enforcement would not be pursued in a 5 year time period. However, the Council still had to assure the Inspector that they were meeting the needs of travellers over the whole of the Plan period and following Welsh Government guidance to work proactively with Gypsy and Traveller households to find sites to accommodate the need that would arise. She also confirmed that it would be very difficult to relocate the Travellers from the unauthorised site as there was no alternative location.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Social Care & Health commented that a working group had been set up to determine the best approach for this matter and work was underway which was outlined in the detailed report. She thanked the staff involved for their hard work so far, as it was a difficult situation.
In agreement with his colleague, the Leader noted that the situation was made more difficult as during discussions with the Travellers living on the land at Hayes Road, Sully, the occupants made it very clear that they would not live on a Gypsy and Traveller site that met the requirements of the Welsh Government Guidance 'Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites, May 2015' and the Inspector had judged their existing site unusable due to potential flooding at and near the entrance to the site. He also noted that a solution would be sought in two years.
As one of the Officers consulted on the report, the Operational Manager for Development Management stated that there was currently a break between the LDP Inquiry sessions to deal with any matters arising of which this issue was one, it was therefore important to address this matter quickly, as any further lengthy delay to the Plan could undermine its soundness.
The Managing Director commented that the situation was further complicated by the LDP being at this sensitive stage. In addition, the prospects of relocating the travellers were slim given that there was currently no alternative site. Guidance required that the Council had to work with the Travellers to find a site that met their specific needs and such an approach would take time. As such, the report proposed the only reasonable option to progress the matter. He further added that while the proposals detailed in the report fell within the remit of Officer operational duties, it was more appropriate to present this matter to Cabinet due to its importance.
This was a matter for Executive decision
Cabinet, having considered the report and all the issues and implications contained therein
(1) T H A T the situation in respect of the Local Development Plan (LDP) concerning the allocation of a Gypsy and Traveller site be noted.
(2) T H A T the suggested approach detailed in the report, that the Head of Regeneration and Planning issue a letter to the travellers currently occupying the unauthorised site at Hayes Road, Sully to provide them with the assurance that no planning enforcement action will be pursued against their residential use of the site within the subsequent five year period from the date of the letter, be endorsed.
(3) T H A T subject to resolution 2 above, the Council continue to work with the occupants of the unauthorised site at Hayes Road, Sully to come to a mutually agreeable resolution to find a site that will meet their needs.
(4) T H A T subject to resolution 2 above, the Vale of Glamorgan Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment, May 2016 attached at Appendix 1 to the report be adopted.
(5) T H A T the report be referred to the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee, the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee and the Project Steering Group for consideration, and to the Planning Committee for noting.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To inform Members of the background to the report in respect of the on-going Local Development Plan process.
(2) To provide a short-term solution to the Gypsy & Traveller need in order to progress the Local Development Plan to adoption whilst allowing the Council to continue to work with the Travellers currently occupying the unauthorised site at Hayes Road, Sully in order to meet their long term accommodation needs in a sustainable way.
(3) To identify for the Travellers currently occupying the unauthorised site at Hayes Road, Sully a site that will meet their needs.
(4) To ensure that the Council complies with its statutory requirements under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and adopts the Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment, May 2016 for submission to Welsh Government and the LDP Inspector.
(5) To seek the views of the Scrutiny Committees and Steering Group and to inform the Planning Committee.