§ 1. Mr. Colvin
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to report on possible amendments to the Caravan Sites Act 1968; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Richard Tracey)
I announced a review of gipsy sites policy on 13 December and asked for comments and suggestions by the end of March. The 60 or so responses are now being examined and I will announce my conclusions as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Colvin
When trying to solve the difficult problem of finding accommodation for gipsies, which should take priority, the statutory obligation upon councils to provide sites, or local planning policy, which can also be enshrined in a statutory structure document? If the latter takes priority, will my hon. Friend consider the introduction of a plan for private gipsy sites identified by a strengthened Gypsy Council and owned by the gipsies themselves?
§ Mr. Tracey
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. Every individual case must be decided on its merits. It may be necessary, on occasions, to accept a gipsy site in an area where restrictive planning policies apply. However, the arguments in favour must be extremely convincing. Private sites can make an important contribution, and this will be considered further in the review that I have announced.
§ Mr. Steen
Although my hon. Friend recognises the importance of gipsy sites, will he call for a review of tenting and camping sites? Is he aware that the new directions which have been given by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the 282 Environment put great pressure on land of historic nature and land of outstanding natural beauty, such as the heritage coastline? Will my hon. Friend initiate a review of 28-day licences, whereby camping is allowed without any planning consent?
§ Mr. Tracey
The question was confined to gipsy sites, which are one of my responsibilities, but I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and my colleagues at the Department will take his points to heart.