Gypsies and Travellers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:12 pm on 10th September 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:12 pm, 10th September 2018

I completely agree with my hon. Friend but, as he knows, the subject of home schooling and the rights of parents over the rights of the state is a matter of debate at the moment, and something that I know the House will want to opine on in future. That is pertinent to this area in particular. I have inquired of Gypsy communities in my constituency whether their children are at school, and they are being home educated, which at the moment is perfectly legal. The question is whether that education is of an acceptable standard, and therefore whether a local authority feels able to enforce.

The fourth area that my hon. Friend raised was planning policy. He described the imbalance between the number of sites in some areas compared with others, particularly in his county. The Government’s planning policy for Traveller sites confirms that our aims include that local planning authorities should make their own assessment of need for the purposes of planning and, working together with neighbouring authorities, identify land for sites. Local planning authorities should consider the production of joint development plans that set targets on a cross-authority basis to provide more flexibility in identifying sites. The policy is clear that local planning authorities should ensure that sites in rural areas respect the scale of, and do not dominate, the nearest settled community. In exceptional cases when a local planning authority is burdened by a large-scale unauthorised site that has significantly increased its need, and where the area is subject to strict and special planning constraints, there is no assumption that the authority has to plan to meet its Traveller site needs in full. With regard to helping to improve outcomes for Travellers, local planning authorities should also ensure that Traveller sites are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.