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Private sites. Get your applications in!

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  September 25, 2014 |

Caravan site in LondonCalling all members (and non-members) seeking to develop private Gypsy and Traveller sites.  Whether you already have some land or are considering buying some to develop this into a site, the time to act is very much now.

With the Council’s Core Strategy signed off this week as we understand, it has been formalised that there is a need for 28 private plots over the coming years.  Whilst progress continues to be slow, this is at least a step forward.  It means that there is at least the acknowledgment, and crucial planning acceptance, that there is an urgent and current unmet accommodation need. Ideally, the Council should be more open to passing reasonable applications but at worst means that the prospect of winning on appeal will hopefully be improved.

At the same time, the Council is looking at locations for the 25 public plots.  We will again need input from members to help us ensure that the Council are on the right track; looking at the right types of land in areas where people might actually want to live.  They admit though that this process will take time and it will be another year or so before new Council sites are realistically developed, regardless of what happens with the Cottingley Springs extension.  Vitally though, this in no way should slow down private site development, indeed that is now to be encouraged as strongly as possible.

Of course, nobody wants to risk pushing ahead with a low chance application and certainly not buying land without any guarantee of getting permission.  However, there is no need to go into the process completely blind.  The Council, as it is very much in their interests to do so, are open to steering people on what pieces of land or applications are a possibility or what might be needed to make a plan more likely to succeed.  Whilst they cannot give guarantees, we can get hopefully obtain enough information to encourage and provide confidence to push ahead with plans.

All this encouragement from some parts of the Council of course needs to be taken into account alongside the evidence of less than positive experiences of those who have actually sought to develop sites.  The reality is that those members who have taken the trouble and expense to seek permission have found the process both long and frustrating.  Certainly in Leeds, I can think of few examples, and therefore good adverts, of those getting permission straightforwardly from the Council in many years. Permission, if obtained at all, has usually had to be from an inspector, through the appeal process with the Council fighting to the last. This needs to change.

To finish more positively again, the planning situation does appear to be changing, with the need for sites now formally accepted in Leeds. There are some positive noises from the Council encouraging private site applications and hints of meaningful guidance to progress these.  Of course these positive words need to be put into practice but let’s put this to the test.  Those with an interest or thoughts about developing private sites, now is a good time to act.

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