A judge has ruled that an automatic ban on Gypsies building on Green Belt land was discriminatory, opening the door for beauty spots to become home for travellers’ caravans and rubbish tips.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles introduced a policy of ministers personally reviewing and rejecting all bids made by gypsies in 2013, the Telegraph writes.
But judges at the High Court ruled the policy amounted to discrimination against the travelling community and ordered Mr Pickles to stop automatically rejecting all planning appeals by travellers. Mr Justice Gilbart ruled that Mr Pickles’ policy had discriminated against gypsies and travellers, breaching the Equality Act 2010 and the human rights of two Romany gypsies from Kent.
The decision is bad news for local communities who have been protected from having important green space taken over by gypsies and means the power will lie in the hands of planning inspectors who are not democratically accountable and less likely to understand the importance which green belt land holds.
The Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Shaun Spiers said he was concerned about the ruling and it would be “worrying” if the decision prevented Mr Pickles’ duty “to defend the Green Belt from inappropriate development of any kind.”
“Local authorities should make proper provision for accommodating gypsy and traveller families. Too few do so and this is a major problem, ” Mr Spiers added.
The ruling comes as it was revealed that the Government would be publishing new planning rules to give extra power to ministers to protect the Green Belt.
A departmental source said it was “fair to say that ministers have given greater weight of the importance of protecting the Green Belt” when deciding on competing issues in a planning appeal.
“Ministers are quite determined to increase protections of the Green Belt. We have already done a lot – we want to do more. Is Eric Pickles going to be discouraged? No – we will redouble our efforts to protect the Green Belt.”
Since the change in policy in 2013 more appeals to build on the Green Belt had been turned down with ministers reviewing around 100 planning appeals from travellers who have been denied the right to build on green belt land by local government departments.
The High Court test case featured two Romany gypsies – Charmaine Moore, a single mother with three children and Sarah Coates, a disabled woman with three children who wants to live on green belt land in Dartford.
The havoc caused by the eviction of the gypsies at Dale Farm on green belt land in Essex, once the UK’s largest gypsy camp, cost the tax payer £7million.
The changes brought in by Mr Pickles to protect green land and make it easier for councils to refuse applications was attacked by the chairman of the gypsy council. Joseph Jones said “It seems like open season on ethnic minorities.”