Published: Thursday, 3rd December 2015
Lewis has insisted that measures in the housing and planning bill which change the planning regime for travellers did not remove the duty on LPAs to access their housing needs.
His clarification came during the committee stage of the legislation in the Commons this week. It followed comments from Labour back-bencher Grahame M Morris MP who had quoted Catriona Riddell, the strategic planning convenor for the Planning Officers Society. She had intimated that the new regime risked misinterpretation and could provide local authorities which were reluctant to plan for travellers “an excuse not to do it”.
Lewis said he supported the duty on local authorities to make provision for travellers and gypsies. “I want to reinforce and make clear the fact that this clause does not remove the requirement to assess the specific accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers.
“Local housing authorities will still need to consider their protected characteristics and cultural links to caravan dwelling. Local housing authorities will continue to decide how best to undertake their duties to assess the needs of all their residents and those who resort in their area. This will be in accordance with the legal obligations in the Equality Act 2010 and, as was rightly outlined, human rights considerations.”
He added: “We wish to assist local authorities in meeting their duties and will therefore be happy to consider incorporating any necessary elements of the current ‘Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments Guidance’ in wider planning guidance, to which local authorities must have regard.”