New Report Highlights How Local Authority Development Plans Can Help Facilitate the Delivery of Traveller Accommodation

The new city and county development plans currently being prepared across the country, present a real opportunity to better facilitate the accommodation needs of the Traveller community, the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), the State’s independent oversight body for planning has said today.

In its latest Case Study Paper entitled Traveller Accommodation and the Local Authority Development Plan, the OPR surveyed existing local authority development plans(1) and Traveller Accommodation Programmes(2) (TAP) to examine links between their policies and objectives relating to Traveller-specific accommodation.

The purpose of the Case Study Paper is to address knowledge gaps, to provide support for local authorities in performing their duties and to highlight best practice to foster shared learning.

The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, states that development plans must include objectives for “the provision of accommodation for travellers, and the use of particular areas for that purpose.” Supplementary advice is contained in The Planning Guidelines on Development Plans (2007).

The Case Study Paper observes that all development plans had general policy statements relating to traveller accommodation, that 94% had specific listed policies and objectives in their development plans and that a small number included maps to identify Traveller-specific accommodation. The report highlights examples of good practice in current development plans. These include referring to specific proposals for the provision of Traveller accommodation and mapping existing and future Traveller-specific accommodation.

However, it also concludes that there is an opportunity for the next generation of development plans to improve alignment with the local authorities’ TAPs and that this will require the officials of local authority Housing and Planning departments to work together in an integrated manner through their respective TAP and development plan processes.

The Planning Regulator, Niall Cussen said:

“Local authority development plans play a crucial role in the process of identifying and facilitating the delivery of Traveller accommodation. This Case Study Paper highlights some of the good practice which already exists. However, it also finds a lack of uniformity in approach.

By implementing the examples in the Case Study Paper and using the good practice checklist, planning authorities will be better able to facilitate the provision of Traveller accommodation.

Also, initiatives such as mapping Traveller-specific accommodation gives the public and other stakeholders, through the public consultation phase of the development plan process, the opportunity to input their opinion on any proposed locations. This will help to avoid any issues which might arise later in the planning process.

It’s also important to note that as part of our role in assessing development plans for their adherence to national and regional planning guidelines, the OPR can make recommendations and observations to local authorities if we feel they have not fully fulfilled their obligations in this area.

With almost all local authorities currently producing new development plans, this is an ideal opportunity to incorporate best practice and help facilitate the delivery of Traveller accommodation’.

This report emanates from the Traveller Accommodation Expert Review Group which identified three planning process issues relating to Traveller-specific accommodation. The report requested that the OPR conduct a review of Traveller accommodation policies and objectives in statutory development plans.

This is the third in a series of OPR Case Study Papers. They are issued to promote shared learning and highlight best practice in accordance with the OPR’s statutory remit to engage in education, training and research activities.

  1. Development Plan: The development plan sets out the overall core strategy and specific objectives for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area of the local authority. Elected members of the local authority are responsible for making development plans. The plan consists of a written statement which sets out the policies for the area, and maps which show zonings for different types of development, for example, residential, industrial and amenities such as parks. A new development plan is made every six years.
  2. Traveller Accommodation Programme (TAP): Traveller Accommodation Programmes set out the actions local authorities will take to meet the current and future accommodation needs of members of the Traveller community in their area. They must produce one every five years. The Planning Guidelines indicate that the land-use aspects of TAPs should be reflected in the development plan.