The High Court has held that Eric Pickles breached the Equality Act 2010 by recovering appeals against refusal of applications for traveller pitches in the green belt – the only reason given for recovery was that the appeals related to travellers’ pitches, which showed “indirect discrimination towards the ethnic group of which they are members”. The Court also declared that the claimants’ human rights had been violated due to the “unreasonable” delay caused by the recoveries.
A bad day for Pickles then… although Planning Minister Brandon Lewis did say: “This government makes no apologies for seeking to safeguard green belt protection and trying to bring a sense of fair play to the planning system. The government’s planning policy is clear that both temporary and permanent traveller sites are inappropriate development in the green belt. Today’s judgment does not question that principle.”
Another interesting case is that of Anne Dear. Dear appealed against refusal of temporary permission for use of a site in the green belt for keeping horses and as a residential caravan site (but without previous restrictions on residential use that had been imposed on an earlier temporary consent). The Court upheld the refusal to allow the family of Romany Gypsies to use the area of land for that purpose. Whilst the best interests of children living on the land had to be a primary consideration under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, substantial weight also had to be given to the fact that the land was within the green belt – and the decision-maker was entitled to achieve the necessary balancing act by reducing the weight to be given to the children’s best interests.
What’s the position in Scotland?
A recent report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission on developing successful site provision for gypsy and traveller communities in Scotland illustrates the factors which contribute to the establishment of good community relations when proposing and developing sites, and looks at a number of case studies across Scotland. It found that that some local authorities in Scotland have developed successful sites, but more work is needed.
So progress has been made in Scotland, but there is still a way to go. No doubt Scottish planning decision-makers will take cognisance of the recent court decisions in England – and will avoid getting themselves in a similar pickle.
On February 16, 2015