UK Politics

Planning law 'favours travellers' MP Philip Hollobone says

Philip Hollobone

Planning laws are "favourably skewed" towards gypsy and traveller communities, an MP has claimed.

Conservative Philip Hollobone said the law should apply equally to everyone.

Citing examples of antisocial behaviour, the Kettering MP urged ministers to "listen to these concerns from the heart of middle England".

But during the Westminster Hall debate, he was criticised by Labour MPs who said his "offensive" comments would "stigmatise" the communities.

Mr Hollobone called for the end of a section of the Housing Act 1994, which says councils must take into account the "accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers residing in or resorting to their district".

'In tears'

"I simply do not see why, and neither do my constituents see why, there should be any special provision at all in the planning system for gypsies and travellers," he said.

He said he was not "picking" on travellers but said residents had been left "in tears" because land near their homes had been designated as potential sites for pitches.

He said fly tipping and hare coursing were common occurrences, with residents who protested intimidated, adding that the current policy was "stirring up resentment and hatred between one community and another".

Another Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, said he was "baffled" that travellers were "treated as a vulnerable community, when most of them have far greater wealth than we will ever have in this room".

But Labour MP Andy Slaughter said traveller communities often had more long-term health problems and lower educational attainment.

"On almost any social indicator, gypsies and travellers come lowest," he said, adding there were "simply not enough sites" to accommodate them.

'Generous enough'

Urging Mr Hollobone not to "look for the worst in people", he added: "I think this country is big enough, rich enough and generous enough to accommodate these communities as many other countries do."

Another Labour MP, Sharon Hodgson, questioned which other ethnic group would be "stigmatised" in the way she said gypsies and travellers were Mr Hollobone's debate.

Communities Minister James Wharton said it was important to have a fair planning system and to ensure "that everyone in our society feels they have a place in it".

Legitimate concerns had been raised on both sides of the argument, he said, adding that new measures under consultation would lead to improvements.

Council have "extensive powers" to deal with unauthorised sites, he added.