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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 9th October 2012

 

Report of the Director of Development Services

 

Gypsy and Traveller Site Provision in The Vale of Glamorgan

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             This report has been prepared at the request of Councillor Bob Penrose to provide information on the provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers within the Vale of Glamorgan.

Recommendation

1.             That the contents of the report be noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee of the background behind the Gypsy and Traveller site allocation within the Vale of Glamorgan Deposit Local Development Plan 2011- 2026 and the issues associated with the provision of a Gypsy and Traveller site.

Background

2.             Section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003 requires local authorities to produce Local Housing Strategies (LHS) that set out the key issues facing housing provision within a local authority area. The LHS outlines opportunities, constraints, problems and priorities and how these will be addressed. LHS must consider the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers in order to comply with the statutory requirement imposed by section 225 of the Housing Act 2004.

3.             The guidance produced by the Welsh Government (WG) on undertaking Local Housing Market Assessment (LHMA) advises local authorities to carry out the study over Housing Market Areas. The Vale of Glamorgan is deemed to be part of the broader Cardiff Housing Market Area ('the area where the majority of households living or seeking to move in the private sector are willing to search for alternative accommodation') and it was therefore appropriate to undertake a joint LHMA with Cardiff Council. A copy of the full LHMA report for the Vale of Glamorgan is available on the Vale of Glamorgan Councils website at: /Documents/Internet/Living/Planning/Policy/LDP/Background Papers/Local_Housing_Market_Assessment_2010.pdf

4.             For minority or hard to reach groups such as Gypsies and Travellers, the WG guidance suggests that additional assessments could usefully be undertaken to fully understand partnership with neighbouring authorities as travelling patterns are liable to cross local authority boundaries.

5.             Against this policy background, Fordham Research were commissioned by officers of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Housing and Planning Departments in partnership with their respective officers in Cardiff Council in October 2007 to undertake a LHMA to include a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (G&TAA). The aim of the assessment was to quantify the accommodation and housing related support needs of Gypsies and Travellers in terms of residential and transit sites and bricks and mortar accommodation. Although a joint assessment was undertaken, the accommodation needs for each authority were assessed separately using the methodology set by the WG.

6.             The research considered a range of Gypsy and Traveller groups found in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, including Welsh Gypsies, English Gypsies and Irish Travellers across different tenure types and drew on a range of data types and sources, including:

  • Secondary information, including a literature review and secondary data analysis
  • Stakeholder consultation with local organisations involved with Gypsies and Travellers
  • A face to face survey of Gypsies and Travellers

7.             The data provided is therefore qualitative as it is based on the views and experiences of accommodation provisions and wider service issues. Although there are currently no authorised permanent residential or transit Gypsy and Traveller pitches within the Vale of Glamorgan stakeholders believe that there is a small settled and transient community in the area and there is one family living on a long-term unauthorised development on the outskirts of Llangan on land in the ownership of the Council.

8.             The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Survey and Assessment of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Report (August 2008) concluded that there is a need for more accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers within the Vale of Glamorgan to provide for future anticipated growth as illustrated by Table 1 below.

Table 1: Estimated requirements for pitches and housing, Vale of Glamorgan 2008 - 2018.

Type

Additional Units per Annum

Total Additional Units over the 10 year period

 

Authorised pitches 

0.6

6

Unauthorised pitches 

0

0

Transit pitches (where Gypsies and Travellers may legally stop in the course of travelling) 

1.5

15

Housing

0.1

1

 

9.             WG Circular 30/2007 'Planning for Gypsy and Caravan Sites' (December 2007) provides guidance to local authorities in Wales on the planning aspects of finding suitable sites for Gypsies and Travellers. It requires that where a LHMA identifies an unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in an area, Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) should allocate sufficient sites in LDPs to ensure that the identified pitch requirements for residential and transit use can be met.

10.        A report by the Council’s Housing Services to Cabinet on the 29th July 2009 outlined the issues raised by the G&TAA and advised that the following further work be undertaken:

  • Identify any suitable sites within the Vale of Glamorgan to meet the need for both an authorised site and a transit site. If the Local Authority is unable to meet the assessed future need identified, the LDP should contain a reasoned explanation as to why this has not been possible. It must explain why the use of criteria based policies is necessary to ensure the adequate provision and state the detailed measures that it will take to ensure that adequate provision is made during the Plan period. In addition, criteria based policies must be fair, reasonable and effective in delivering sites. Policies that rule out or place undue constraints on the development of Gypsy and Traveller sites should not be included in the LDP.
  • Assess if a rural exceptions site policy should be used in the LDP if there is a lack of land to meet the identified need.
  • Determine if the current unauthorised site in Llangan should be regulated.
  • Determine the policy on any future planning applications to develop further Gypsy and Traveller sites after the identified need has been met.

11.        The WG is committed to addressing inequalities for ethnic minority groups and communities in Wales including Gypsies and Travellers and has published “Travelling to a Better Future” a Gypsy and Traveller Framework and Action Plan for Delivery. The aim of the document is to realise the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Gypsy and Traveller community. That is, to ensure equality of opportunity for Gypsies and Travellers in Wales and to think about new ways in which Gypsies and Travellers can be enabled to access resources not always available to them.

12.        In relation to the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers, the Framework recognises the lack of appropriate local authority site provision in Wales and pledges to work with local authorities to provide new and improved sites. The Framework pledges the continuation of the Gypsy and Traveller Refurbishment Grant which facilitates the refurbishment of existing local authority sites and the Gypsy and Traveller New Sites Grant. In 2011/12 £2 million was made available for local authorities to apply for; however budgetary constraints have meant that the figure for 2012/13 has been reduced to £1.75 million and subject to further budgetary constraints £1.5 million has been identified for 2013/14. However, in recognition of the financial burdens faced by local authorities the percentage of funding the WG is making available to local authorities has been changed from 75% of the overall refurbishment or new build costs to 100% for these costs.

Local Development Plan

13.        Planning Policy Wales Edition 4 (February 2011) (PPW) sets out the land use planning policies of the WG and directs that local authorities are required to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers and states that it is important that policies for the provision of Gypsy sites are included in Local Development Plans.

14.        WG Circular 30/2007 suggests a number of ways in which a local authority might identify specific sites and make land available to meet the need identified in a LHMA. In identifying a site, local authorities will need to demonstrate that they are suitable and that there is a realistic likelihood that the specific sites allocated in a LDP will be made available for that purpose. One suggested approach is through making full use of any register of unused and under-used land owned by public bodies or vacant or under-used land in local authority ownership.

15.        As background evidence to the emerging LDP an assessment was therefore made of land in Council ownership to ascertain whether a site existed that could accommodate the need identified. The assessment took the form of a desk based exercise utilising the Council’s Geographic Information System and the data layers compiled and held by the various departments within the Council.

16.        The initial filter identified 566 possible sites which were further assessed to remove sites either currently utilised as Public Open Space or within a Green wedge as allocated within the Vale of Glamorgan Adopted Unitary Development Plan 1996 - 2011.

17.        The second, more detailed filter exercise identified a total of 43 sites that had the potential to accommodate a Gypsy and Traveller site. These included 18 within or closely related to existing residential areas as identified within the Vale of Glamorgan Adopted Unitary Development Plan 1996 - 2011 and 24 within the rural Vale.

18.        Each of the 43 sites were then subjected to a more detailed assessment against a range of environmental and land use constraints that might impact upon their suitability and deliverability for use as a Gypsy and Travellers site.

Local Development Plan Candidate Sites

19.        As part of the LDP process, the Council has a duty to identify sites where development such as housing, employment or other uses may occur during the lifetime of the Plan. Between the 4th December 2006 and the 31st January 2007 the Council invited developers, landowners and other interested parties to nominate “candidate sites” for development for potential inclusion in the emerging LDP. This “call” resulted in over 400 sites being submitted for consideration for a range of proposed uses however no site was submitted for consideration for use as a Gypsy and Traveller site. While none of the sites resulting from this exercise had been submitted for consideration as a Gypsy and Traveller site, many had the potential to provide for this use and it was considered appropriate to contact the owners, proposers and agents of sites to ascertain whether the use of the site to provide for Gypsy and Travellers would be considered. In this regard letters were sent to owners, proposers and agents on the 15th April 2011. This process resulted in an additional 8 sites being subject to further detailed assessment.

20.        Leading on from the above, in total 51 sites were considered to warrant more detailed investigation against a range of environmental and land use constraints that might impact upon their suitability and deliverability for use as a site for Gypsies and Travellers.

21.        Following consideration of the available sites, a site at Llangan owned by the Council was included within the Deposit Local Development Plan for use as a Gypsy and Travellers site. A copy of the Gypsy and Traveller Site Assessment Background Paper which provides more detail on the site assessment methodology is available within the Members' Room.

Relevant Issues and Options

22.        The public consultation on the Deposit LDP and accompanying documents including the various background papers ran for the statutory six weeks prescribed by the regulations between the 20th February 2012 and the 2nd April 2012. Significant representations and objections were received on many elements of the Deposit LDP including the allocation of a Gypsy and Traveller site at Llangan. A number of sites have also been proposed as Alternative Sites for use as a Gypsy and Traveller site and these will form a part of the next stage of the LDP process, the Alternative Sites consultation.

23.        The background to the LDP, the Deposit Plan consultation and an outline of the objections and the possible way forward is the subject of a separate report which will be presented to Scrutiny Committee on the 6th November 2012.

24.        Since the consultation on the Deposit Local Development Plan Gypsies and Travellers have occupied the vacant Vale of Glamorgan Council waste transfer site at Sully Moors Road without the necessary planning approvals. In the absence of an official Gypsy and Travellers site within the Vale of Glamorgan, this occupation is currently being tolerated by the Council pending the identification of a permanent site which is being progressed through the LDP. It is also relevant that on the 12th September 2012 planning permission was granted on appeal for a site at The Stables Redway Road, Bonvilston (Ref:2011/00710/FUL) for the stationing of caravans for residential purposes for one gypsy pitch together with the formation of additional hard standing and utility/dayroom ancillary to that use. A copy of the appeal decision is appended to this report and the attention of Members is drawn to the section 'Other Matters' on page 6 which refers to the LDP.

25.        The Welsh Government has recently closed a public consultation on a White Paper entitled Homes for Wales - A White Paper for Better Lives and Communities. The White Paper sets an ambitious programme for action for the Welsh Government and seeks to find solutions to housing problems and address inequalities in the housing sector. The White Paper includes a commitment by the Welsh Government to introduce a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities where need has been identified.

Funding

26.        The provision of permanent and transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers will require significant financial investment which has currently not been identified within current Vale of Glamorgan Council budgetary resources. Grant funding is available to Welsh local authorities via the WG Gypsy and Traveller Refurbishment Grant and the Gypsy and Traveller New Sites Grant as outlined in paragraph 12 of this report.

The Way forward

27.        Further to the publication of and consultation on Alternative sites that have been promoted as a consequence of consultation on the Deposit LDP, and a consideration of the responses to consultation, the LDP Regulations allow the Council to make ‘Focussed Changes’ to the LDP. These focussed changes will be informed by both the public consultation on the Deposit LDP and the Alternative Sites consultation (the next stage). However, these changes should not impact upon the LDP strategy. The Council must explain why the change is being put forward and the evidence on which it is based. The Focussed Changes should be subject to the same process of publicity as the Deposit LDP to allow interested parties to comment on them.

28.        The Council will need to carefully consider the impact of the Focussed Changes on the soundness of the LDP taking account of its overall consistency and its strategy as well as of the Sustainability Appraisal. The ability exists therefore to make changes to the Plan, to add sites, delete sites, add new polices or change the wording of policies, provided that these changes are evidence based and do not go to the heart of the Plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

29.        The provision of permanent and transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers will require significant financial investment which has currently not been identified within current Vale of Glamorgan Council resources. Financial support is available from the Welsh Government via their capital grant scheme for the refurbishment of existing and the provision of new gypsy and traveller sites.

30.        The refurbishment grant is intended to improve the quality of life for Gypsy and Traveller site residents by modernising existing facilities, and providing new facilities where needed and proposed areas of work could include drainage, plumbing, supply of essential amenities, fencing, roads and safety improvements.

31.        The new sites grant aims to increase site provision throughout Wales. It is important that the application for the grant clearly demonstrates how the proposal fits in with the plans of the local authorities across Wales. 

32.        The preparation of the LDP is being undertaken by officers within the Planning and Transportation Division within existing budgets.

Sustainability and Climate Change implications

33.        The progression of the LDP and the selection of a site for Gypsies and Travellers are the subject of a sustainability appraisal. As a consequence all relevant policies as well as the specific allocations will be assessed on sustainability grounds. Clearly the specific location of the site vis-à-vis facilities and services and in relation to environmental designations will be highly relevant.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

34.        There is a range of legislation, national policies and guidance concerning Gypsies and Travellers which place obligations on local authorities in Wales when exercising their functions and responsibilities. While there is currently no specific duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers this is likely to change following the recent consultation on the Welsh Governments White Paper Homes for Wales - A White paper for Better Lives and Communities, the consultation draft of which included a commitment to introduce a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsy and Travellers where need has been identified.

35.        The Council's statutory duties under the new LDP system are contained in Part 6 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Town and Country Planning (Local Development Plan) (Wales) Regulations 2005.  Crime and Disorder Implications

36.        None arising from this report for the reason that this report does not make recommendations on site specific issues.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

37.        None arising specifically from this report.

38.        The provision of a site (permanent and transit Gypsy and Traveller sites) will enable Gypsies and Travellers to access services and facilities available to the wider population and help redress inequalities faced by Gypsies and Travellers by improving equality of opportunity for all.  

Corporate/Service Objectives

39.        One of the service objectives for Planning and Transportation is "to develop a sustainable land use planning and transportation framework for the Vale of Glamorgan."  The preparation and adoption of the LDP is key to meeting this objective.  The progression of work on a LDP for the Vale of Glamorgan is a key target for the Directorate in the next few years.

Policy Framework and Budget

40.        This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

41.        As the report has implications for the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan, Ward member consultation has not been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

42.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Survey and Assessment of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation. (Fordham Research August 2008)

Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan 2011- 2026 Background Paper - Gypsy and Traveller Site Assessment (November 2011)

Contact Officer

John Marks - Planning Policy - Tel: 01446 704629.

Officers Consulted

All Heads of Service

Senior Accountant

Operational Manager Development and Building Control

Operational Manager Legal - Committee Reports

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services.