The latest stage of the process that will eventually lead to the identification of land in the borough that is suitable for the development of gypsy and traveller sites has been Rugby Borough Council's approval of its draft Core Strategy at a meeting on 29 June. The Core Strategy sets out Rugby's vision for how land in the borough will be used up to 2026, particularly relating to new housing and employment development. And as part of the need to identify land for housing development, the Core Strategy sets out a criteria against which to judge applications for gypsy and traveller sites needed to meet the demand for the extra 48 pitches.
The criteria says:
Where there is identified need, planning permission will be granted for gypsy and traveller sites provided that the following criteria is clearly satisfied:
- the site is within or adjacent to the boundary of an urban area; or
- the site is within or adjacent to the settlement boundary of a Main Rural Settlement; and
- is located within a reasonable distance (up to 2km walking distance) of local services and facilities including a convenience store, a GP and a school;
- the site is cumulatively appropriate and proportionate in scale to the nearest settlements, its local services and infrastructure;
- vehicular access onto the site via the public highway is appropriate;
- the site is capable of sympathetic assimilation into the surroundings;
- if screening is required, suitable landscaping and planting will be provided and maintained by the developer; and
- development of the site will not cause unacceptable nuisance to existing neighbours by virtue of noise and other disturbance caused by movement of vehicles to and from the site.
If the site is located within the Green Belt, the application must demonstrate that all reasonable alternatives have been explored before the application is submitted.
However, the approval process that needs to be followed before this criteria actually becomes borough council policy is long-winded and it is not expected that it will become a 'finalised' Core Strategy until June 2010, when it will receive Central Government approval. After that date, the borough council intends to apply the criteria in order to identify particular locations within the borough that would meet all of the conditions specified. This will be done through a Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document (remember that name!), which Rugby are currently expecting to be finalised by summer 2011. This plan will identify, on a map, the likely gypsy and traveller sites that Rugby would give planning permission for in order to meet the need to provide the additional 48 pitches in the borough by 2012.
Frustrations remain about how long the whole process is taking, but this is the way it has been decided it has to be done. I'll update on here as and when progress is made. In the meantime, you can read the whole of the draft Core Strategy document here (page 55 sets out the site criteria), and more information on the process from Rugby's own website here.