Social Affairs Correspondent
A majority of local authorities are not adequately planning for Traveller accommodation, a report from the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) warns.
In a landmark report published on Sunday, the OPR says despite the fact the housing sections (working with Traveller accommodation committees) in all 31 local authorities invest significant effort and time in drawing up Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs), these are often not reflected in the six-yearly Local Development Plans (LDPs) drawn up by their planning sections.
This is contributing directly to the failure in many instances of councils to delivering adequate Traveller accommodation, along with the under-spend of Traveller accommodation budgets.
The OPR “case study paper” examines the LDPs of all 31 local authorities “to ensure the accommodation needs of the Traveller community are properly planned for and addressed by local authorities” and to “highlight best practice and learnings, for sharing across the sector”.
It comes on foot of a recommendation from the Traveller accommodation expert group established in 2018 by the then minister of state responsible for Traveller accommodation, Damien English.
Under the 1998 Traveller Accommodation Act, every local authority is required to draw up a TAP every five years, identifying how much Traveller-specific accommodation is needed, where it is needed and to set out timeframes for delivery.
The OPR finds, however, often TAPs are not reflected in the development plans. For instance, while almost all councils include general statements in their plans about Traveller accommodation, two did not list any Traveller accommodation objectives, as required in the Planning and Development Act 2000.
Just four of the 31 local authorities include maps of Traveller accommodation sites in their current development plans, and of these just one maps future potential sites.
Kildare, Clare and Offaly County Councils are mentioned as local authorities where TAPs are "incorporated verbatim into the development plan, demonstrating direct policy alignment between the housing and planning functions of the local authorities".
Language about accommodation varied across LDPs, with some giving “halting sites” their own listing and others listing “Traveller accommodation” only.
“Uniformity…would allow for accurate figures and projected needs to be drawn…The identification of Traveller-specific accommodation needs should be included in the development plan in order to fully support the TAP.”
It says each LDP should state specifically the council’s Traveller accommodation policies and objectives, to include: the range of accommodation options; site locations; criteria for site selection; cultural amenities such as stables and community facilities/resources, and design parameters and standards for halting sites, bays and other Traveller-specific accommodation.
Councils that make strong use of maps in their LDPs to set out Traveller accommodation objectives are Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Limerick city and county, and Cork city.
The review includes a “good practice” checklist “that the OPR will be examining in the context of Traveller-specific accommodation requirements when assessing development plans” in the future. This includes mapping of known and proposed Traveller accommodation; ensuring clear linkages between development plans and TAPs; providing recognition of the cultural requirements of Travellers, and prioritising community integration.