Roma groups will not be allowed to set up camps unless they genuinely have a nomadic lifestyle under a new crackdown.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles wants to end special planning treatment for those who claim they are travellers because they are racially Roma – when in fact they stay in one place.
People who work in travelling circuses and those who travel to horse fairs will still qualify but Mr Pickles hopes to restrict the spread of traveller settlements.
Travellers will have to prove that they have a nomadic lifestyle before they are given permission to set up camps under plans being proposed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
And in a written ministerial statement to be issued today, Mr Pickles will also act to stop councils allowing traveller sites on greenbelt land.
Officials say councils have ignored guidance to planners that traveller sites should not be built on the Green Belt, issued in July last year.
Mr Pickles will tell councils that they are giving ‘insufficient weight’ to the need to protect the Green Belt when they consider whether to authorise permanent or temporary sites.
The statement is expected to say that Mr Pickles ‘remains concerned’ by the spread of traveller sites and that he is prepared to intervene to overturn them on appeal.
A senior government source said the Government wants to overturn Labour’s definition of travellers as an ethnic minority following requests from several councils.
Details of exactly how the change will be implemented will be worked out following a public consultation.
The spread of traveller camps has been a feature of some rural communities since John Prescott issued planning rules under the last Labour Government.
Councils complained that the rules compelled them to build on the countryside and compulsorily purchase land.
Mr Pickles has overturned Mr Prescott’s planning circular but aides say he believes Labour’s rules undermined community cohesion by creating a perception that there are ‘different’ planning rules for the travelling community and for the settled community.
People who work in travelling circuses and those who travel to horse fairs will still qualify for special treatment
‘Planning rules should be the same for all,’ the source said.
Eric Pickles said: ‘It is vitally important to protect our Green Belt land, but Labour’s rigged planning rules lead to waves of unauthorised development and created tensions between travellers and the settled population.
‘By giving special treatment to certain minority groups like travellers, Labour’s rules harmed community cohesion and undermined environmental protection.
‘We have already given councils new powers to tackle abuse of the planning system and scrapped John Prescott’s politically correct diversity planning guidance, but I want go further to ensure fair play for all.’
The source confirmed that the Government would consult on how to restrict the number of travellers who are allowed to set up camps.