§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether, in the light of the Prime Minister's statement on 12 January (HC Deb, col. 297) on the rights of Travellers that "the interests of the ordinary public have to come first", they consider (a) that Travellers are members of the public; and (b) that it is necessary to strike a balance between the rights of Travellers and the rights of other members of the public. [HL780]
§ The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker)
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister agrees that Travellers are members of the public whose rights are to be respected. Those rights have to be balanced with those of other members of the public.
The European Court of Human Rights has recognised, in the planning field, the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved in policies balancing the interests of the general population, in particular with regard to environmental protection, and the interests of a minority with possibly conflicting requirements. This balancing exercise is a matter for local planning authorities in the first instance and the Secretary of State, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, on appeal.
Along with rights come responsibilities: the government, local authorities and local communities have a responsibility to facilitate the undeniable need for sites, while Travellers have a responsibility to act reasonably, co-operatively and abide by planning law.