Plymouth cracks down on Gypsies who flout planning rules
GYPSIES and travellers who flout the planning system to build illegal homes face a tough new crackdown.
The Government is giving councils new powers to block unauthorised developments.
The powers are aimed at Gypsies and travellers who buy land and then establish homes on it without planning permission.
The most famous recent example was the high-profile confrontation over Dale Farm in Essex. But Plymouth City Council has also faced long, drawn-out battles with Gypsy and traveller families over developments at Ridge Road and Linketty Lane in Plympton.
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Now Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has announced new powers for councils to issue temporary stop notices.
"A small minority of individuals would openly seek to abuse the planning system by buying land, often in the Green Belt or open countryside, and then moving caravans on to the site over the weekend," the Conservative Party said. "Councils were unable to move quickly enough to stop the development and any subsequent action was often long and drawn out."
With the new powers, councils will be able to act immediately.
Cllr Bill Stevens, Labour chairman of Plymouth's planning committee, said the city was already "one step ahead" of Eric Pickles.
Earlier this year he introduced new rules that mean a retrospective planning application will not even be accepted if an enforcement notice is in place. "We would always encourage people to play by the rules," Mr Stevens said.
Mr Stevens said, but added that there was "little meat on the bones" of the latest announcement.
Cllr Chris Penberthy, the Cabinet member for community development, said: "We do not have a significant problem in Plymouth with unauthorised developments and there are currently none in the city. We are proactively looking at ways to manage and develop Gypsy and Traveller sites to prevent long-term unauthorised developments and short-term encampments."
Plympton Conservative councillor Terri Beer welcomed the move. She said it could have the effect of stopping developments like those of the two Plympton cases.
Announcing the new powers Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said: "Councils will be able to stop unauthorised sites as they happen, backed up with unlimited fines.