Monday, 21 March 2005


Michael Howard will today launch the Conservatives’ action plan to tackle the growing problem of illegal traveller sites and unauthorised developments. He will argue that planning laws should apply equally to everyone and it is time for fair play.

Why Labour are all talk
Before he was elected, Mr Blair declared, ‘I love our countryside’ (Country Life, 26 Sept 96). All talk. Labour’s human rights laws and new planning regulations have undermined the planning system, with one rule for travellers and another set of rules for everyone else.
• In the Government’s own words, ‘there has recently been a large increase in the number of unauthorised Gypsy and traveller encampments’ (ODPM, Planning for Gypsy and traveller sites, Dec 04, p.33) and ‘the total number of caravans on unauthorised encampments and developments increased by 38 per cent from January 1997 and Jan 04’ (p.34).
• A survey by the National Farmers’ Union has found that illegal travellers are costing Britain’s farmers £100 million a year, with more than half the respondents reporting that the number of cases of illegal encampments has increased in the last five years (NFU Press Release, 7 Nov 03).

Liberal Democrats
Locally, Liberal Democrats often oppose new encampments when travellers arrive. Yet nationally, they oppose new enforcement powers for local councils; they would force every council to build traveller camps – irrespective of local wishes; and they support Labour’s Human Rights Act even where it undermines planning laws.

What will Conservatives do?
The British people have an inherent sense of fair play. They do not believe it is fair that we should have one planning law for people wanting to build new homes or make alterations to their houses, and another for travellers.
Conservatives propose a seven-point action plan to stop illegal traveller camps and unauthorised developments, to give stronger rights to local residents, and to ensure planning controls are fairly enforced for all.
• Reviewing or repealing the Human Rights Act: Applying the same planning laws should apply to everyone.
• Preventing abuse of retrospective planning permission: Giving councils powers to refuse retrospective applications where the law has knowingly been broken.
• Making traveller trespass a criminal offence: Adopting the tough laws introduced in the Republic of Ireland, with measures to provide protection against criminalisation of unintended trespass.
• Stopping irresponsible land speculation: Extending councils’ powers of compulsory purchase, where the land is in continuing breach of a Stop Notice.
• Tough new enforcement powers for councils and courts: Including larger fines to stop travellers from profiting from illegal development.
• Better guidance for police and councils: Replacing John Prescott’s new regulations which restrict the ability of the police and councils to take action.
• Greater say for local people: Opposing interference by regional bureaucrats and the imposition of crude quotas for new traveller camps.

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