MP's bid to close legal loophole

A LOOPHOLE allowing travellers to set up homes without planning permission could be wiped out if a Suffolk MP can convince Parliament.David Ruffley, MP for Buy St Edmunds, will slam current planning laws - which he says are unfair - in the House of Commons tomorrow.

A LOOPHOLE allowing travellers to set up homes without planning permission could be wiped out if a Suffolk MP can convince Parliament.

David Ruffley, MP for Buy St Edmunds, will slam current planning laws - which he says are unfair - in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The move follows travellers establishing a caravan camp at Woolpit.

Mr Ruffley said: "This is not based on prejudice against travellers, it's about my constituents having less rights.

"When travellers move onto a site and build without permission they put in a retrospective planning application, like the group at Woolpit have done.

"If this is turned down they can still stay put by arguing human rights legislation but the average person can't do that.

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"I'm not against retrospective planning applications as there are times when people genuinely forget or don't realise they need permission.

"What I want changing is the complicated area of law allowing travellers to ignore the outcome when others can't. I want one rule for everybody.

"The way planning law stands at the moment the situation in Woolpit could be dragged on for months, even years, and I want it sorted out now."

A retrospective planning application for building work already started at Woolpit, on land off Norton Road, has now been submitted.

The application includes permission for two caravans on each of the 18-plot sites.

Standpipes, mains electricity and a tarmac access road were installed by the travellers within days of arriving on the site, believed to be owned by them.

The group admits flouting planning laws by building without permission but says it is not there to cause trouble.

The travellers say they need homes now and could not wait for the lengthy planning process to go through.

The camp has attracted criticism from residents of neighbouring villages of Elmswell, Woolpit, Tostock and Norton since it was set up at the beginning of August.

Parish councillors and villagers have set up a joint forum to tackle the travellers.

Peter Dow, forum spokesman, said: "The site is in Elmswell but it's a strange geographical position as it has boundaries with all the other parishes.

"The concerns are shared equally and the forum provides the authorities with one point of contact."

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