Saturday, 31 December 2011

Gypsies in caravan bid - Forest of Dean

Planning permission is being sought for the changes at Delkatina in Newnham Road, at the Buckland family's settlement.

Forest of Dean District Council's planning committee will discuss the plans on January 10.

A report drawn up for them said: "The application relates to part of a long-established gypsy site including a prefabricated dwelling and seeks to provide five additional Gypsy caravan pitches on the land."

It will also be used for storage and dispatch of timber as well as eight car parking spaces.

Gypsies vow to fight Coven Heath caravan row - South Staffordshire

Gypsies, whose bid to move caravans on to green belt land in South Staffordshire failed, have today vowed to resurrect the scheme and take their fight to the High Court.

The proposals to permanently move caravans onto land next to Hordern Mobile Home Park in Coven Heath were thrown out by a government planning inspector, who branded the development inappropriate, earlier this month. But now applicant Elaine Lee said she would continue to fight the decision – and will take the battle to the courts.

She said: “We do intend to follow this all the way up to the High Court if we have to. I am just getting advice from my agent at the moment.

Eight caravans moved on to land next to Hordern Mobile Home Park in Ball Lane in September 2010. Gravel was put down and an 8ft fence constructed.

But there was no planning permission for the land, owned by Nino Lee and his wife Elaine, to be used for the caravans.

The couple applied for retrospective permission to stay there after South Staffordshire Council obtained a High Court injunction preventing any further caravans moving on to the land.

But that application was refused by government inspector Paul Dignan before Christmas. Mr Dignan supported the council’s decision to reject the application. He said at the time that inappropriate development would only be allowed where it could be demonstrated that special circumstances exist which outweighed harm to the green belt. He ruled in the Lee’s case those circumstances did not exist.

Mrs Lee added: “I am just trying to get homes provided for the ones in my family that need them.My family has lived here for 20 years. We want to stay together.”

The field was bought by the Lee family 24 years ago.
They moved mobile homes on to part of it without permission but gained a certificate of lawful use.

Hampshire Traveller sites will be cleared faster

HAMPSHIRE County Council has changed its policy to make it easier to evict Gypsies and Travellers from illegal sites.

Following a review of its procedures the council has decided in future to take quicker steps to deal with unauthorised encampments.

The council will now apply through the magistrates’ courts to reclaim land in an attempt to minimise the impact on the local community and residents.

It believes this will be faster than going through the civil courts, because a hearing could previously take up to 21 days to secure. Informal negotiations and the welfare checks that are required by law will continue to run alongside this magistrates’ court process.

Each year there are around 60 illegal encampments on council land, involving between 150 and 200 individual caravans. The council said the annual average legal and clean-up cost incurred to remove these encampments has been around £26,300.

Leader of the council, Cllr Ken Thornber, said: ‘We are fully aware that illegal encampments can result in nuisance and cost to the taxpayer; in legal terms as well as the clean-up costs, therefore the sooner that the eviction process is completed, the better.’

see also: "Faster" Action Over Camps

Friday, 30 December 2011

Appeal over Oswestry Traveller site plan refusal - Shropshire

An appeal has been launched by a Gypsy family against a refusal of planning permission for a Travellers’ camp on a site that was formerly a dump near Oswestry.

Applicant Jerry Berry today claimed the refusal was wrong and vowed to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The Berry family had applied for permission to site four chalets and to create room for four touring caravans opposite Henlle Park Golf Club in Gobowen.

But Shropshire councillors at a north planning committee in Oswestry earlier this month turned down the application.

An officers’ report recommended refusal because the scheme would introduce new build into a rural environment and went beyond the identified need of the applicant.

Mr Berry said: “An appeal has gone in and we want an inspector to come and have a look and see what we are doing. It will cost somebody a lot of money. If we win the council will have to pay our costs. If we lose we pay the costs. But we are trying to create a home for our family. We don’t believe the reasons for refusal stand up. We are closer to residential development than the council’s own site at Park Hall. We are a local family trying to set up a home. We believe this site does fit policy and will take this to Europe if we have to.”

The council has lodged plans for a further 10 pitches at Park Hall Gypsy and Traveller camp.

Davenham Gypsy site plans turned down - Northwich

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a Gypsy site in Davenham have been rejected by council officers.

The proposal was to change the use of the land, at the junction of the A533 Davenham bypass and London Road, to a residential caravan site for two Traveller families with four caravans, including two static mobile homes.

The application prompted residents to send hundreds of letters, comments and emails of objection to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Clr Elton Watson, ward councillor, said: "Many local residents were concerned about the proposed development at this location, not due to nimbyism, but based on sound planning reasons such as concerns of highway safety relating to the access to the site, this has been reflected in the decision made by council officers. In my opinion the site does not lend itself to any type of residential development.”

He said the planning department refused permission on a number of grounds, including that proposed residential use at a green field site was considered harmful to the character of the open countryside and contrary to a number of local planning policies.

The application failed to demonstrate how the site would be adequately screened from view to avoid being detrimental to visual amenity in the countryside location.

There were also concerns regarding the proposed access, with substandard forward visibility on a road subject to the national speed limit and in close proximity to Peckmill Roundabout, on the A533.

The site includes land which lies within an area of ancient woodland, and is next to a site of biological value and the application failed to demonstrate how the proposed development could have been carried out without causing harm to these two sensitive land uses.

Clr Watson said: “I fully support the council's aims of establishing managed Gypsy and Traveller sites in suitable locations that will benefit the travelling community."

What the Localism Act 2011 Means for Gypsies and Travellers

The Localism Act received Royal Assent on the 15th November, 2011. Different parts of the Act will come into force at different times, with some being bought into force immediately.

The Act is wide ranging, but brings into force two key provisions which will have an immediate effect for Gypsies and Travellers: the abolition of the Regional Strategies and the changes to the law regarding retrospective planning permission.
Abolition of Regional Strategies

Regional Strategies provided planning frameworks in England, including targets for the provision of Gypsy and Traveller pitches within each local authority area. The abolition of the Regional Strategies will mean that Local Authorities will no longer be set targets on how many new Gypsy and Traveller pitches are needed in their area. Instead they will be left to make their own assessment of need. There are real concerns that, left to their own devices, Local Authorities will fail to make sufficient provision or grant planning permission for privately provided sites.

Local Authorities will still have a duty under the 2004 Housing Act requiring them to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers, and Showpeople, and to make adequate provision for them through the planning process. However, the guidance on how they should make these assessments and deliver the pitches needed (Circular 1/2006 Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites) is to be replaced by the weaker, soon to published "Planning for traveller sites", described by the Government as 'light-touch guidance'.

Retrospective planning applications

Section 123 of the Localism Act inserts new sections into the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 preventing retrospective planning applications where there is already an enforcement notice on the land which covers the subject matter of their proposed application. If there is not such a notice, then a retrospective planning application can still be made.

However, if such an application is made and the local planning authority serves an enforcement notice relating to the application, within the relevant period for determination of the application (normally 8 weeks) then the applicant will not be permitted to appeal that notice. Instead, the applicant should proceed with his or her retrospective application and if necessary, any appeal against the refusal of planning permission.

This part of the Act has not yet come into force and Gypsies or Travellers who own their own land but who don’t have planning permission, should make an application as soon as possible. Those who have temporary permissions should make sure they make a fresh application before the temporary permission comes to an end.

In addition to the abolition of the Regional Strategies and the changes to retrospective planning, the Act contains other provisions that may have implications for Gypsies and Travellers. For a fuller explanation of the importance of the Localism Act for Gypsies and Travellers see Chris Johnson's Travellers' Times blog.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Family's fears over Rangeworthy Travellers' site - Gloucestershire

A FAMILY from Rangeworthy fear the worst for the New Year as a proposal for a Travellers’ site next door to their dream home has been recommended for approval by planners.

David and Karen Powell, who have spent thousands of pounds renovating Leechpool Dairy Farm, say South Gloucestershire Council will be acting prejudicially if it allows the 14-pitch site to go ahead on Tanhouse Lane.

Mr Powell, who works for Chipping Sodbury Motor Company, told the Gazette: "A planning application for a business on the site was refused on the grounds it would generate too much traffic and noise and be detrimental to local amenities and neighbouring properties. So why is this application any different? If it goes ahead that is saying there is one rule for the first application and a different rule for Travellers. That is prejudice or even racism against normal residents."

Council planning officer Simon Penketh previously recommended the application by Shannon Parks was refused because Tanhouse Lane is so narrow and access would represent a danger to the many cyclists and pedestrians who use it regularly. At a November meeting of the authority’s development control committee

Cllr Ben Walker (Con, Bradley Stoke North) proposed it was thrown out on the grounds of the impact on the site’s immediate neighbours, the Powell family. But before councillors could vote the application was deferred because of a legal challenge over the land’s ownership.

Now the ownership issue has been resolved, Mr Penketh has said the need for more Travellers’ pitches in South Gloucestershire outweighed concerns over highway safety.

His report states: "It is concluded that the principle of development is acceptable and that there is a demonstrable need for the provision of new Gypsy and Traveller pitches, and that this conclusion should be given considerable weight in determining this application."

He said the site would not detrimentally impact on the privacy of nearby dwellings.

Mr Penketh also said the fact that land at Hall End, just a mile away from Tanhouse Lane, was given permission to be used as a Travellers’ site in 2009 but has never been lived on did not demonstrate ‘comprehensive evidence of a lack of need’.

In addition to the Powell’s objection, 461 letters against the plans have been submitted to the council. Rangeworthy parish and Yate town councils have objected to the scheme and argue a new neighbourhood of 3,000 homes included in South Gloucestershire Council’s Local Plan earmarks Tanhouse Lane as a recreational area for new residents.

Applicant, Shannon Parks, of Shannon Parks Ltd, said that the site had been identified as part of the West of England Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment which found 58 residential and 25 transit pitches were needed in South Gloucestershire.

"Gypsies and Travellers have a right to live in the way that they choose to," she said. "We have had a huge amount of support for this project from the Gypsy and Traveller community."

The application is due to be decided at South Gloucestershire Council’s Thornbury offices on Thursday, January 5 (2.30pm).

Action urged after Travellers Stop in Bristol car park

FILTON traders have demanded action from council officials after a group of Travellers parked their caravans in the town's main shoppers' car park.

One van and one caravan remained at the site in Gloucester Road North yesterday – despite South Gloucestershire Council issuing the Irish Travellers with a notice to move within 24 hours on Thursday.
The two vehicles took up six of the bays at the long stay car park, which forbids trailers and parking for more than 12 hours at a time.

Traders say up to three caravans and associated vehicles were parked at the far end of the car park for a week-and-a-half, taking up 15 bays.

Aaron Naughton, chairman of Filton Chamber of Trade, told the Evening Post: "We don't think it's fair that if we, or any of our customers, parked in that car park for days at a time we'd probably get ticketed or clamped. But the Travellers have been there for more than a week and have been allowed to park there for as long as they want.

"The car park gets quite full and they are taking up quite a large part of it, stopping people from using it to shop in the town. This is the third or fourth time the Travellers have come back this year – sometimes they set up a table and chairs in the car park. Some customers do not feel comfortable leaving their vehicle unattended or going back to it in the dark when there are people hanging around there. The Travellers are breaking the law but it doesn't seem like anyone wants to do anything about it. It seems like it's one rule for them and one rule for us."

Another trader, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, told the Evening Post: "I usually park my car in the car park but I feel uncomfortable walking back to it at night when there are lots of people hanging around.

"Having Travellers, or anyone parked there permanently, does not encourage shoppers in Filton, which is what we need at the moment – the council should be supporting us. It's affecting trade and making people feel uncomfortable – we have contacted the council but it doesn't seem like much is happening."

Two occupants of the caravan parked in the car park yesterday told the Evening Post they would be leaving soon but did not want to comment further.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: "The council is aware of the situation and is working according to established procedures to negotiate the departure of the vehicles. We hope to have the site cleared in the very near future."

The council has a "policy on Traveller issues" published on its website.

It states: "The council will strive to balance the interests of local people and the travelling population in the management of unauthorised encampments.

"In recognition that there is no provision of emergency stopping places or transit accommodation and that eviction can result in other unauthorised encampments in less suitable locations, every unauthorised encampment will be considered in relation to its individual circumstances."

Plans for Traveller sites in Bristol are torn up

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to build new Travellers' sites in Bristol have gone back to the drawing board.
It could mean other locations are chosen instead but all five communities that faced camps on their doorsteps have won a reprieve.

Last summer the city council announced it needed to build 24 new pitches to meet government requirements. Initially the proposals were for up to 51 pitches across five sites in different parts of the city.

The largest was for up to 24 pitches for the former Dunmail School site in Southmead, and seven more were proposed for Begbrook Drive in Broomhill.

Woodwell Road in Shirehampton was earmarked for seven pitches and Cousins Lane in St George for a further five.

Another eight plots were proposed for travelling Showpeople at a car storage area on land south of the 12 pitches already at South Liberty Lane in Ashton Vale.

But some residents organised petitions and protests to fight the plans.

They argued that putting Traveller pitches in residential areas was unsuitable and they should be located elsewhere. The Shirehampton site was saved earlier this year, after residents set up a community- run allotment on the land in the summer.

The authority also had second thoughts about the Dunmail and Begbrook Drive sites early on in the process following opposition from locals.

Now the council has agreed to reconsider all the other sites.

Residents in St George said they were delighted with the news.

Alan Bisp, 54, a lorry driver whose Summerhill Road house overlooks the site, said: "A lot of residents were against the proposed Travellers' site in Cousins Lane – we held meetings in the Air Balloon pub with local councillors to try to get it stopped.

"It would have been madness to have caravans and cars coming in and out of that tiny lane. Cousins Lane is also very narrow, and big caravans just wouldn't have got down there. Ambulances and fire engines also wouldn't be able to fit down there so it would be dangerous to have people living there. Also, it's a nice space, there are allotments and small sheds. I don't want to overlook a Travellers' site."

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: "I'm happy to hear the plans have been scrapped but am a bit cautious because I think the council will bring the idea up again."

Brian Jaques, 62, a warehouseman who lives in Air Balloon Road, said: "No one wanted it. Travellers are always trouble wherever they are and I don't want them behind my house. It's definitely a good thing the council is having a rethink."

Residents in Shirehampton have secured a yearly tenancy on the Woodwell Road site and say it is a good example of using land for the right purpose.

Caroline Penny petitioned the council a year ago to prevent development on the site. She said: "It wouldn't have been ideal for us or for them. There is a site in Avonmouth they don't want to use – they don't want to be in a field in Shirehampton surrounded by houses.

"We got the lease (for Woodwell Road) in July and the council welcomed us with open arms. It's run as a community allotment, we share out the food we grow and we have training days and work days. Maybe the council will look at what we're doing here and rethink the other sites."

South Liberty Lane already has one Traveller site, opened in 2006 despite more than 2,000 objections. Opinion was divided over a second site.

One man, who lives opposite the proposed site but asked not to be named, said: "I don't think there's a need for it. They have one place already. We have had problems with thefts; the police went up there. It's not very nice."

But a resident of neighbouring Swiss Road, who also did not want to be named, said: "I hadn't heard about the other site but if it had gone ahead it wouldn't have bothered me. There were some thefts last year but the police dealt with it."

The proposals were originally included in the council's Site Allocation and Development Management Options Document, which earmarked sites for potential development across the city.

A revised set of proposals is due to be released next summer, which may mean new sites being allocated for traveller pitches instead.

Executive member for housing Councillor Anthony Negus said the allocations were being reviewed because the council could not make them work.

He said: "We will look at other potential sites. This is not something we can duck, it's coming from Westminster."

Gypsy site would help tackle shortfall in suitable pitches - Bristol

PLANNING officers say a proposed Gypsy site north of Yate would help meet a shortfall in pitches, despite a large number of objections to the scheme.

Shannon Parks wants to create 12 pitches and utility rooms, as well as two transit pitches and a site manager's office, in open countryside off Tanhouse Lane.

The plan had been expected to be determined at a South Gloucestershire Council meeting last month but was deferred so a number of outstanding issues could be addressed, including how caravans would reach the site safely.

The agricultural land can only be reached along narrow country roads with tight junctions, sharp bends and hump-back bridges.

At the time, the development control committee was expected to be recommended to reject the application. But with the extra details forwarded, councillors meeting in the new year are now likely to be asked to give their approval. More than 460 comments have been made about the scheme and both Rangeworthy parish and Yate town councils have objected.

They said local roads were unsuitable for the increased amount of traffic the scheme would generate, would lead to over-development of a rural area and claimed there was no demand as another travellers' site in the area at Hall End had been sold off for other purposes.

But planning officer Simon Penketh said not enough new pitches had been provided recently. He said: "Since 2007, 18 residential pitches and four transit pitches have been granted planning permission. This comprised of five pitches permitted at the Hall End site, with the remaining provided on existing family sites through intensification. The outstanding identified need for the period up to 2011 has not been met."

As of April 2011, there was an outstanding need for 62 residential and 21 transit pitches.

Mr Penketh said Shannon Parks had showed there was enough visibility at the access of the site onto Tanhouse Lane and said caravans would be transported on trailers that allowed loads to pass over obstructions such as bridges. But it was acknowledged that load heights might require the removal of tree branches.

It was also recognised that the lane was an official cycling route and used by ramblers and horse riders but planners felt the scale of the Gypsy site would not introduce so much extra traffic as to affect road safety.

Although not in the green belt, the area is in a location where residential development is usually not permitted. Planners will meet on January 5 to determine the application.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Furious residents want answers over Traveller site plans for Winsford

“WHY is it always Winsford?” is the question residents want answered in response to controversial plans for a Gypsy and Traveller site in the town.

 At a heated community forum meeting at Wyvern House, angry residents voiced their fury over the proposed site, which includes 20 permanent pitches, on land off Barlow Drive.

Chris Mitchell, who lives near the site, said not enough people had been consulted over the plans, for which a decision is expected in the New Year.

He added: “I don’t feel I have been consulted enough about this application – does it not affect the whole of Winsford and the surrounding area?

“We need proper representation in these planning meetings.”

Alison Taylor, who also lives near the site, agreed. She said: “There is going to be a new housing estate built near this site which we have had letters through the door about - yet we have had nothing from the council about this Gypsy site.”

Residents also felt the town was already doing its bit for Travelling communities.

One speaker at the meeting said: “Why has Winsford been picked on again when we already have our fair share of sites?

“Why hasn’t historic Chester, or leafy Tarporley, or some of the more affluent areas of Cheshire been chosen?”

Another resident said: “Winsford holds 10 per cent of the Cheshire West and Chester population. If the proposed sites are approved it will mean 50 per cent of all Traveller sites in the borough will be in Winsford.”

The application, submitted by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC), is for outline planning permission and will go before a strategic planning committee in January. A final date for this meeting has yet to be arranged.

A further site, for travelling Showpeople, has been earmarked for Winsford Industrial Estate.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Oswestry Gypsy site bid by Shropshire Council - Shropshire

A Travellers’ camp near Oswestry could be extended to make up for a shortage of pitches across the county.

Shropshire Council wants to create up to ten pitches at the Park Hall site.

The council says each pitch will house one family, with room for a caravan, static mobile home and parking.

“Individual amenity blocks will provide kitchen, bathroom and daytime living facilities for the residents, to be developed as semi-detached units with independent access from each pitch,” the council says in its planning application. The site will be designed to take into account more sustainable construction methods and site layouts.”

The council, which says there is a shortfall of sites across the county, hopes to determine the application in March.

Councillors earlier this month refused permission by one family to develop a site in nearby Gobowen.

Plans for Gypsy site to go ahead - West Sussex

LAND at Billingshurst can be used for caravan homes, after an appeal to grant planning permission was allowed by an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate.

Permission for 11 Gypsy or Traveller pitches together with ‘formation of additional hard standing and utility or day rooms ancillary to that use’ at Kingfisher Farm, West Chiltington Lane, was granted on Monday

December 19 by planning inspector David Smith, who allowed an appeal against Horsham District Council’s earlier refusal of the planning application.

The planning decision comes a week after the County Times reported how Billingshurst residents branded plans for Gypsy, Traveller and travelling Showpeople sites in the area ‘unfair’ at a parish council meeting on Wednesday December 7.

On HDC’s planning website residents living near the proposed Traveller pitches registered their objections to the plans.

Many stated the West Chiltington Lane is already difficult for cars to drive down and additional families living in the area would impact on the schools, which are already oversubscribed.

Barns Green resident Nicholas Yeo, of Valewood Lane, said creating an ‘isolated commune of up to 11 family units without consideration of public transport, education, healthcare and social services resources and infrastructure appears extremely shortsighted’.

He added: “It is likely to create significant frustrations and tension should it go ahead.”

Both Billingshurst and Itchingfield parish councils objected to the plans.

Issues highlighted in the appeal report by inspector David Smith included concern it would dominate the nearest settled community and impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding area.
In his conclusion though, Mr Smith stated that the site would be ‘reasonably’ located for schools, shops and other local services and community facilities.

He added that it would not ‘dominate’ the nearest settled community and that the proposal ‘would not have a material adverse impact on the visual amenities of the rural area’.

The report also set out conditions that would need to be met by the applicant, Maurice Black, including the number of caravans allowed on the site, how refuse would be dealt with and a limit on the size of the caravans.

Meriden Gypsy site protesters vow to 'wait it out'

"The camp has become my life now."

Before a group of Travellers moved on to a patch of land in the West Midlands village of Meriden, Dave McGrath spent his spare time going walking and his evenings watching TV.

Now he is among a band of villagers manning a 24-hour protest camp aiming to prevent the Travellers from staying there permanently. The protest has been there since April last year and marked its 600th day on Thursday.

The training consultant said: "I volunteered and have been involved daily since then, it's full time. Apart from work, all the things I used to do have fallen by the wayside."

Angered by the Travellers taking up residence in a field in Eaves Green Lane, the Meriden villagers formed Residents Against Inappropriate Development (Raid).

Under that banner, their 24/7 protest has been visible outside the camp ever since. It is run by 200 people who fill a rota that varies from one hour shifts to six or seven hours overnight.

Mr McGrath said: "The camp is never unattended so it's a remarkable effort, it's a whole cross-section of the community. Some of the people who help out are farmers delivering wood, others stop by with cakes or boxes of tea bags."

The protesters say they are making a stand for the environment and will maintain Raid's campaign until the Travellers are removed from the site.

Mr McGrath said: "Our protest is about enforcement. This is a green lung that prevents urban sprawl. It's called the Meriden gap and separates Coventry, Meriden and Solihull.

"We're also motivated by opposing unethical development in the countryside. Since we started our campaign 50 villages have contacted us saying they've had exactly the same thing happen to them.

"We feel that the real intention is for a residential and commercial development and that's what we're opposing."

But they are adamant the protest is not racially motivated.

"We don't judge people by their background, we judge them by what they do and what's been done is devastation of the greenbelt," Mr McGrath said.

The Travellers lost their appeal to stay on the land in October, however their caravans remain on the site. They had applied for permission for 10 permanent pitches but Solihull Borough Council said it broke greenbelt regulations and had inadequate traffic access.

Joseph Jones from the Gypsy Council said the environment was just a platform being used by the protesters.
He said: "I know Meriden's site well. It's obviously a camp set up to object to the race of the people and it would be ridiculous (for them) to talk about the elephant in the room."

Raid campaigner Les Lloyd, 77, moved to Meriden eight years ago because of its location and now fills two shifts each week at the camp.

He said: "I came here mainly for the peace and quiet and the walking. This is a fantastic place - I can sit in my armchair and see wild deer. We've got to keep this kind of thing for the kids and those that are going to come after us. It's often said here that if a block of flats was being built we'd still be here. We've got to keep the greenbelt. We cannot keep allowing it to be built on."

Raid has been given until January to tell the borough council its intentions over the camp in Meriden. The council had been due to decide whether to issue an enforcement notice on the protest camp on Wednesday but has postponed its decision until February.
Raid's 200 campaigners work on a rota with shifts varying in length

Even if the protesters are ordered to remove the camp, Mr McGrath said he was confident the campaign would continue "for as long as it has to".

He said: "We're happy to sit in the snow if necessary. If anything Raid gets stronger every day."
Members of Raid are holding a carol service at the camp and Mr McGrath said he will be doing a night shift at the camp into Christmas Day.
He said the protesters did not want it to become "another Dale Farm" scenario.

"I've given up predicting when this will end. We've just bought into the fact that this is a very lengthy process. We just have to wait it out. I would like this to end, we don't want to be here but I wouldn't be surprised if we were here for a third Christmas."
see also:  Festive cheer sweeps through Meriden Gypsy camp protest

Friday, 23 December 2011

Newport Gypsy sites proposals on display - Wales

NEWPORT residents can find out more about the council’s proposals to build Gypsy and Traveller sites in the area .

Information about the council’s Local Development Plan and the reasons why the five proposed sites in Bettws, Marshfield and Nash were chosen will be on display at Bettws Library A Planning application for a residential site on land known as Yew Tree Cottage, Bettws, has been submitted to the council.

Planning applications for the other four sites at Pound Hill, Marshfield; Queensway Meadow and two sites at Pye Corner, Nash, are being prepared.

The council must include plans for Gypsy and Traveller sites as part of its Local Development Plan or face a fine.

Full consultation will take place and residents can give their opinions before decisions are made.
More info at /planning

Report into Shenleybury Gypsy site calls it an excellent site - Borehamwood

A report by a government inspector into a Gypsy site in Shenleybury says it is an “excellent site”.

Claire Sherrat stated in her report the main reasons why the site adjacent to Shenleybury Cottages, owned by Gypsy Sarah Price, had won its appeal for planning permission.

In the report she said: “Taken together, the general considerations in favour of the development clearly outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness and the other minor harm that would arise.”
She also mentioned despite the site being on Green Belt land, it would have minimal encroachment into the countryside.

She added: “The immediate need for additional pitches to accommodate Gypsies and Travellers, not only in Hertsmere district but also in the wider area, is a matter that can be afforded considerable weight.

“All existing sites are in the Green Belt and it is highly likely that some, if not all, sites will be in the Green Belt.
“In that context, the appeal site is an excellent site, situated in a sustainable location and well related to existing residential development.”

Also in the report there are a number of conditions placed on the site which are that no more than two caravans are allowed on the site, with one being static and no commercial activities will be permitted on the site.

No vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will be allowed on the site to protect the visual amenities of the Green Belt land and the living conditions of those living near the site.

The conditions state that the layout of the caravans on the site should be agreed with those living in neighbouring properties as well as drainage, external lighting and the location of the site generator.
In response to the conditions set out in the report, Councillor Hannah David said: “This to me shows that some of the residents’ concerns have been listened to by the inspector and their views have been taken into consideration.”
see also: Council loses appeal over Shenleybury Gypsy site

Hawarden councillors vow to fight Ewloe Travellers site - Flintshire

COMMUNITY leaders have vowed to support residents in their fight against a planned Travellers’ site in Ewloe.

Hawarden councillors met last week and recommended fresh proposals for a permanent camp for Gypsies on land off Magazine Lane be rejected when they go before Flintshire County Council’s planning committee.

Cllr Dave Hough said he feared east Flintshire could become a ‘dumping ground’ if the plans for a Travellers’ site – and proposals for a waste plant in Deeside – come to fruition.

Before members voted unanimously against the plans, he said: “I say throw it out – I don’t want it.”

Angry residents formed Ewloe Green Action Group to battle the plans 18 months ago and scores of campaigners sent letters of objection to the county council.

A public meeting held last summer was attended by more than 200 people opposed to Green Planning Solutions’ proposals to station residential caravans on five pitches and create utility buildings and spaces for touring mobile homes.

They say the plans are out-of-keeping with the area and have concerns about traffic, drainage and sewage, and also maintain the ‘green barrier’ between Ewloe and Northop Hall shouldn’t be developed.

Hawarden councillors also say there is adequate provision for Travellers in the county already.
Green Planning Solutions’ plans were recently resubmitted after progress with the initial proposals stalled, and the action group said anyone who formally objected will now have to do so again.

A spokesman said: “Interested parties need to submit fresh letters containing their observations to Flintshire County Council’s environment and planning department.

“Alternatively, comments can be submitted online at by finding application number 049152 on the planning applications database then clicking on the comment link.”

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Meriden Gypsy protest eviction decision put on ice

A DECISION to force residents who set up a protest camp after Gypsies moved onto nearby green belt land to leave has been deferred.

Solihull Borough Council have given members of Residents Against Inappropriate Development or RAID until January 16 to write to them with a programme for voluntary withdrawal.

The group said they are happy to go as long as it ties in with the removal of the Gypsies from their illegal camp.

Some 200 villagers have been maintaining an ‘all weathers’ 24-hour vigil for exactly 600 days in the entrance to a builder’s yard on Eaves Green Lane, Meriden, to monitor the Travellers and protest against the site which was set up in May 2010.

see also:
Solihull Observer, 

Gypsy sites cut to three in rethink - Kidderminster

FOUR of the Wyre Forest sites earmarked as potential new sites for Gypsies and Travellers look set to be thrown out following public outcry.

Lea Castle, Stourport Road, in Bewdley, the former Sion Hill Middle School and Manor Farm could be struck off the list of seven potential sites after hundreds of outraged people voiced their concerns in a public consultation.

It would mean that only land adjacent to Nunn's Corner, Saiwen and The Gables Yard, all in Stourport, would house the Gypsies and Travellers, if the proposals by the Wyre Forest District Council Conservative group are given the go-ahead by full council.

The shock announcement will come as good news for hundreds of Wyre Forest residents who have been fighting tirelessly against the plans since the seven sites were whittled down from 15, in September.
John Campion, the district council’s Conservative group leader, said the Tories wanted the four sites ruled out as they were not accepted by the community.

Speaking exclusively to The Shuttle he explained: “We don’t support these [sites] being used for Gypsy and Travellers. We don’t support them being accepted in the plans.

“We believe the local representatives role is to listen and engage and that’s what we’ve done - we’ve listened to our community and engaged with them and now our position has been formed by what they’ve told us.
“The responses back from the public meetings and all the people I spoke to didn’t support them being put on the list. For us, our position is that we do not support these sites.”

He added a lot of the proposed sites were on Green Belt land and he was not convinced there were special circumstances put forward for them to be used.

Mr Campion said: “We want these sites ruled out. They’re not accepted . There’s no special circumstances. They don’t have the support of the community and we have to serve the community.”

He went on: “We’ve gone into this with an open mind - putting a proposition to the community and letting them have their say. That’s a very open and democratic way to make the decision.”

He added the group would work with the scrutiny process in the new year to identify how their proposal would be met.

He said: “It will ultimately be full council next year that will decide which sites are included but we feel it is right that we tell our community our position at this early stage.”

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Wyre Forest council discounts potential Traveller sites

The number of potential new sites earmarked for Gypsies and Travellers in an area of Worcestershire has been cut from seven to three.

Wyre Forest District Council has decided against development at four sites - one in Stourport-on-Severn, two in Kidderminster and one in Bewdley.

It means the potential number of pitches has been reduced from 65 to 10.

All are in Stourport, with four at Nun's Corner, three at Saiwen and three at The Gable's Yard.

The decision by the Conservative-run authority to rule out a farm in St John's Road, Stourport, the former Sion Hill school and Lea Castle hospital sites in Kidderminster, as well as Stourport Road, Bewdley, was made following a public consultation which began in October

Leader of the council John Campion said the authority did not support the four locations "to be used for the Gypsy and Traveller site purpose as part of the local development work that's going on to enable us to have a plan that takes us all the way through to the mid 2020s".

"We will have to come up with a plan that doesn't include those sites but ultimately meets the overall need that has been identified," he added.

The council has previously indicated that 43 pitches are required in the next 11 years with 28 of them needed in the next six years.

Travellers: 'New law will stop us settling down'

NEW legislation setting out guidelines for where Gypsies can settle is a setback in their fight to continue traditional customs, according to Travellers.

They have hit out at the new Localism Act, which they say leaves them less likely than ever to find a permanent place to live.

It means targets set by the previous Government for Travellers pitches are to disappear and will be determined locally.

However, Brentwood Borough Council's consultation on the location of 15 permanent Traveller pitches it was told it needed to provide remains active, with the results to be published shortly.

The Localism Bill, tabled by Local Government secretary and Brentwood and Ongar MP Eric Pickles in 2010, means the borough council will have to assess the need, based on historic demand, provide a five-year supply of land and identify specific sites to enable continuous delivery of sites for at least 15 years.

Travellers believe that decisions made locally, by the settled community around them, will affect efforts by Travellers to be granted permanent sites, meaning there will always be a question mark over their residency.

Bernadette Reilly, chairman of the Brentwood Gypsy Support Group, said: "I don't know any different. I've always lived in a caravan.
"My daughter Joline got married eight weeks ago and she lives in a flat. She is miserable. She spends most of her time here. She feels lonely there.
"You wouldn't tell or expect people who normally live in a house to live in a caravan. It's the same for us.
"I don't know why we should live in a house. People should have a choice about how they live.
"This is not a better deal for Travellers. I think whatever chance we had of being given somewhere permanent to live has gone now."

Mrs Reilly, who has lived at Roman Triangle for the past nine years with eight other adults and 18 children on five pitches, had spoken of her delight in 2009 when the site was shortlisted for permanent status.

Her temporary permission expires in April next year but she has applied already and is expectant of being given another one before then.

She added: "I don't believe this new law is going to do Travellers much good at all."

David Vinden, who along with 13 other adults is fighting to stay on land in Blackmore, was equally pessimistic about the new law.

He said: "I can't see how it is going to be good. If they say local people have a chance to decide if they want a Travellers' pitch, what chance do we have?"

However, Professor Thomas Acton, an expert in Romany and Gypsy culture and history, was welcoming of the Localism Act.

The university lecturer, who lives in Brentwood, said: "Eric Pickles has not softened personally but his bill has allowed other people to soften.

"In that way,Ttravellers in Brentwood will be getting a better deal. It means that at the end of five years the people in the 15 pitches, at least as soon as the local development plan is finalised, should get permanent planning."

Meriden Gypsy site protest camp removal order considered

A council will decide later whether to order the removal of a protest camp outside an unauthorised Gypsy site in the West Midlands.

The Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) protest camp is in Eaves Green Lane, Meriden.
Solihull Borough Council said it had delayed taking enforcement action until an appeal against the refusal of planning permission was decided.

The appeal was dismissed on 23 November.

Villagers set up the camp in the gateway to a builder's yard in 2010 to monitor the travellers and protest against the site.

The council's planning committee will meet to decide whether to issue an enforcement notice at 16:30 GMT.

 Protests began shortly after the unauthorised site was set up at Meriden in May 2010.

The Travellers lost their appeal to stay on the greenbelt land in October this year.

They applied for retrospective permission to build eight permanent pitches for their caravans.
Solihull Borough Council refused planning permission and the appeal upheld the council's decision.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Planning loophole allows Gypsies to stay put - Winchester

RESIDENTS are furious with Winchester City Council after an apparent blunder allowed a group of Gypsies to remain in a caravan site.

Micheldever Parish Council slammed the council planning department after its attempt to evict six families from Carousel Park near Micheldever failed.

The council granted permission for the site in 2003 but included a legal agreement that all residents were travelling Showmen.

The authority claimed six of the current occupying families were in breach of this agreement and issued eviction notices before the matter was taken to an appeal in October.

But planning inspector Douglas Morden quashed the notices, ruling the agreement was never officially incorporated into the permission and therefore did not restrict site occupancy.

In his decision he said: “It is clear that the 2003 planning permission is not limited as there is no condition attached to it that restricts occupancy and the legal agreement, which does contain a restriction, was not incorporated into the permission.”

Peter Bradley, of the parish council planning committee, said the city council had let the local residents down and failed to do their job properly.

He said: “There’s no shadow of a doubt they have let us down. It’s not the duty of the parish council, who are trying to do the best for the people, to be thwarted by sheer crass legal and administrative incompetence.
“There’s a tremendous feeling of frustration and anger in the village. We are paying for the planning department to do their jobs and it is really not on.”

Cllr Stephen Godfrey, who represents Micheldever on the city council, said he shared the disappointment of local residents.

He said: “I know the people of Micheldever will be very disappointed because back in 2003 when the decision was made to allow the site to be developed for travelling Showmen there was a clear assurance given by planners at the time that the safeguards in place to ensure that would be adequate. It soon became clear this was not the case and it has been challenged at every stage and now the planning inspector has confirmed that with this decision.”

In response to the decision the council confirmed it was considering its options, which could include a legal challenge.

A spokesman said: "The Inspector's decision raises complex issues which we need to consider over the next few days and discuss our response with local councillors."

But Cllr Godfrey said he did not think a judicial review would prove successful.

He said: “For it to be successful it has to be on a point of law and not just because we disagree with the result so it will not be easy.”

Although the decision went against the council, an application for costs by the appellants was turned down by the inspector.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

New steps to deal with Travellers - Salisbury

QUICKER steps will be used in future to deal with unauthorised encampments by Gypsies and other Travellers on Hampshire County Council land, following a review of procedures.

The news comes after Travellers had to be moved several times from different sites around the New Forest in the summer, costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds each time.

The county council’s policy to control such encampments was last reviewed in 1996 but each year there are about 60 illegal encampments on council land, involving between 150 and 200 individual caravans.

Over the last three years, the annual legal and clean up cost incurred by the council to remove these encampments has been an average of around £26,300.

In future, the county council will first apply through the magistrates courts to reclaim land and minimise the impact on the local community and residents. This is swifter than the civil courts route used previously and for which a hearing can take up to 21 days to secure.

Informal negotiations and welfare checks that are required by law will continue to run alongside the magistrates court process.

A council spokesman said: “The council’s policy has always been to consider the individual circumstances with the intention to reduce nuisance and afford a high level of protection to local residents, while remaining humane and compassionate.

“This is balanced against current legislation which requires that proportionate action is taken and that the rights of all parties are considered before taking action to re-secure the land.

“While the council’s Gypsy and Traveller team secures 40 per cent of all evictions as a result of direct informal negotiation, in some cases, legal action via the courts is required.”

Council leader Ken Thornber said: “When an illegal encampment appears, it is very often contentious and unwelcome, presenting a number of issues and concerns for local residents and the landowner.

“We are fully aware that illegal encampments can result in nuisance and cost to the taxpayer; in legal terms as well as the clean-up costs, therefore the sooner the eviction process is completed, the better.

“By applying to the magistrates’ courts we can speed up the process and minimise the disruption and impact on local residents as well as the disruption to members of the travelling community.

“We are also fully aware of the cost and nuisance that illegal encampments can have on private landowners and so where they occur on private land, our officers will continue to provide advice and guidance to help where possible and appropriate.”

Traveller sites branded ‘unfair’ on residents - West Sussex

‘AN UNFAIR burden’ on Billingshurst is how some residents have branded plans for Gypsy, Traveller and travelling Showpeople sites.

A parish council meeting on Wednesday December 7 commenced with a stark warning from the vice chairman ahead of the controversial debate.

“I will not tolerate any abuse from members of the public to other members of the public or to councillors,” stated councillor Doug Rands.

The caution follows an episode in last month’s meeting in which a member of the public had to be escorted from the building by a councillor to ‘prevent further harassment’.

Last week, councillors and members of the public gathered to discuss the potential suitable sites for Gypsies, Travellers and travelling Showpeople recently identified by Horsham District Council (HDC).

The council commissioned a study to find possible sites revealing 13 possible locations (62 pitches), some new or with personal or temporary planning permission and some unauthorised sites that have been ‘tolerated’.

Three of the proposed sites are located within the Billingshurst parish: Fewhurst Coneyhurst (four pitches); Rowfold Nurseries (ten pitches) and; Southview Five Oaks (four pitches).

District councillors Adam Breacher and Gordon Lindsay both (Con), Billingshurst and Shipley, were immediately put under pressure by parish councillor Stephen Buck to answer why the majority of sites are located in the parish.

“Why is the only place for Gypsy sites in Billingshurst?” questioned Mr Buck.

Adam Breacher responded: “Horsham District Council have done a report and they’ve outlined sites all over the district.

“I appreciate there are some that are in this area but at the moment the district are fully looking into each site.”
Mr Breacher said he would be arranging a visit to some of the sites last Friday, December 9, with residents.
Parish councillor Roy Grantham said: “The poor devils - the local people - most of them won’t get housing.

Let’s help our own people instead of letting outsiders come in and swamp our facilities.”

Residents made their views known as well. Alan Cosh, a retired chartered architect representing a number of residents in the Fewhurst area of Coneyhurst, said: “The Fewhurst site together with the Rowfold Nursery site represent 35 per cent of the total required number which we believe places an unfair burden on Billingshurst and more importantly on the small rural community of Coneyhurst.

“We would request the parish council take our concerns very seriously and support our case when reporting to HDC.”

Rudgwick, Barns Green, Coneyhurst and Dial Post are among the identified sites across the Horsham district.
There is a recognised need to provide appropriate sites and a spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “This work has taken on increased importance with planning applications coming forward across the district and the publication of draft government policy which suggests planning authorities will have to show a five year supply of traveller sites, in the same way they do for housing.”

A presentation explaining the findings was made by the consultants, Baker Associates, to a council meeting on November 8.

“It is important for people to be aware that the identification of the sites in this study does not mean that they are ‘allocated’ or will necessarily be given planning permission.”

“Horsham District Council will now use the study findings to inform work on the preparation of a strategy for the provision of sites for Gypsy, Travellers and travelling Showpeople as well as a document that allocates individual sites.

“The council is committed to engagement with both local settled communities and the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople community and will continue to liaise with key interest groups throughout the process.
“The study will be used to inform a Gypsy, Traveller and travelling Showpeople site allocation document, which will be prepared next year and will be the subject of several stages of public consultation.”

The final report can be found on the HDC’s website at

Gypsy site green light could help fill council coffers - Bedfordshire

A council stands to make thousands of pounds if it gives the go-ahead to a proposed Gypsy site development.
The landowner of the site at Stone Pits in Felmersham is currently waiting for the green light to be given by Bedford Borough Council but a covenant on the site says that the authority is entitled to take a 50 per cent slice of any increased value of the land when it’s sold.

The council says the covenant will not be considered when making its decision.

Earlier this month Bedfordshire on Sunday reported how the authority was weighing up granting planning permission at Stone Pits despite its own enforcement notice forbidding caravans on the site.
Residents had been given 21 days to respond to plans in Felmersham sparking fury that since the collapse of permanent Gypsy pitches at Meadow Lane, rural areas had been targeted for illegal encampment.

The covenant, that dates back to 2003, says that the council can request money made on the site once the landowner has sold it and charge interest if that money is late.

Cllr Alison Field Foster, who has been campaigning for transparency from the council over Gypsy and Traveller site issues, said: “I think the council will be ill-advised to grant planning permission of a site that would clearly cause such contentious issues.

“If it’s seen the council will receive money from a decision something like that could ignite a rural riot.” A council spokesman said: “The land in question was previously owned by the former county council which sold it several years ago. The existence of a covenant on the land is absolutely not a consideration that the planning committee can take into account when deciding the planning application.”

The council has made a u-turn this week over its plans for the Meadow Lane site.

As we revealed in September the permanent site was scuppered for being ‘too noisy’. But following our investigation it was found that a £6,000 independent report commission by the council said that noise could not be the sole reason planning permission was denied.

It is understood a planning application for permanent pitches at the site will be put forward next month and extra pitches at the existing Kempston Hardwick site are also being considered.

Deputy Mayor Charles Royden said: “Early authority from the executive is being sought to submit a planning application so that if the work is successful there will be minimal delay in this process.”

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Complaints rush in to campaigners over Traveller plans - Dorset

COUNTRYSIDE campaigners warned that they have been flooded with complaints about the county’s proposed Gypsy and Traveller plan.

Dorset’s Campaign to Protection Rural England (CPRE) group said that the response has been one of the strongest it has seen so far.

Branch chairman Richard Nicholls said: “We have seldom had such a large response to an issue, it really has been astounding.”

CPRE asked for views from the public before compiling its response to the consultation exercise.

All of the responses have been negative with some claiming that they were worried to take part in the debate openly because of fears that they will be seen to be considered racist.

CPRE say that many of the responses concentrate on the effect any building would have on areas which are currently open countryside, irrespective of whether the sites are ear-marked for Gypsies and Travellers, or anyone else.

CPRE director Trevor Bevins said: “It is the issue of building, unnecessarily, in open countryside, or outside the envelope of established communities, which also worries us."

Our initial fears about this and whether or not the necessary infrastructure, such as school places, public transport and medical facilities, might also be a deciding factor in looking at these sites.

“The organisation is urging everyone to look at the proposals via council websites or at libraries where copies of the consultation document are on display.”

Leeds-wide hunt for Travellers sites

Council chiefs are to run the rule over 300 sites across Leeds in their search for potential new Gypsy and Traveller camps.

The sites to be looked at are currently under wraps and a senior councillor is pressing for the list to be made available to all council members.

The council wants to provide 12 pitches for accommodation for 12 Leeds “roadside families” to try to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments, which between 2004-10 cost the authority £1.9m in clean-up and legal costs.

A set of criteria to guide the search were approved by the council’s Executive Board and they indicate that top priority will be given to available council-owned prospective residential brownfield sites around the city.
Government guidance that “where possible sites should be located near to housing for the settled community to promote better relations” will also be taken into account.

Coun Andrew Carter, the council’s Conservative group leader, told the board: “Three hundred sites are being looked at. Can that list be made available to all council members?

“I want to see the sites so that I can do my own work as set down by the criteria.”

He also argued that illegal encampments should be made a criminal rather than civil offence, saying: “This would allow the police to act more quickly.”

Coun Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat group leader, said the vast majority of the 300 sites would not be suitable and would be dismissed,

He suggested a list need only be made available when the 300 had been “distilled down” to sites which, under the criteria, had the potential to be developed as Gypsy and Traveller pitches.

He added: “I appreciate this is a necessary policy to go into given we have all been affected by illegal camps but the process needs to be conducted slowly and transparently.”

Coun Peter Gruen, executive member for housing and neighbourhoods, said: “The work will be deliberate, thorough and transparent but this isn’t the right time to talk about sites that won’t make it onto a list of possible camps.

“When prioritised sites are available I will bring them to the Executive Board.”

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Coopers of Colyton Common

Fond memories of Tommy and Priscilla have been shared with parish councillor and local historian Ken Clifford.

They were charismatic entrepreneurs of the countryside and were liked - and remembered - by everyone they met.

Gypsies Tommy and Priscilla Cooper were as synonymous with Colyton Common as the bleak landscape they called ‘home’.

Years after their deaths, stories about their remarkable lives have been collected by local historian and parish councillor Ken Clifford.

He received an overhwelming response after the Midweek Herald revealed Priscilla was a leading folk singer of her day - so admired, the great song collector Cecil Sharp twice travelled to her Romany caravan to record her voice at the turn of the 1900s. Those primitive recordings survive to this day, held in the vaults of the British Library.

“The big thing is that so many people have contacted me to say how happy it made them to read about Tommy and Priscilla in the Midweek Herald,” said Ken. “They remember Tommy and have been delighted to read about his wife.”

Ken hopes visitors, particularly those interested in folk singing, will be drawn to Colyton - to follow in the Coopers’ footsteps.

“The response to The Herald’s original story was so great, I couldn’t possibly thank everyone individually,” he said. “I want to say one big thank you, to everyone.”

Thanks to that massive response, we can now reveal...

Priscilla Cooper wore the trousers in her caravan, but it is Tommy who people remember the most.

Although daffodils were grown by Tommy Cooper, in fields on both sides of Colyton Hill, it was not a flower that drew him to Devon. It was ferns.

The Gypsy left his native Kent, together with Bill Cooper, William Packman and Vanny Low, and travelled by train in search of a plant that would protect fresh fish at London’s big markets from flies.

Three types of fern were sought after by traders in the capital, research by Ken Clifford has revealed.
Gyspy suppliers referred to them as Boreye, Angular and Polly. Tommy quickly discovered all three species were readily available in the Colyton area, so he put down roots and stayed. His companions moved on to South Devon and Cornwall. The ferns were bundled by species, dampened and sent by train to London.

Tommy’s daffodil business followed. He rented fields from the parish council, as well as local farmers.

“I’m told his fields of yellow flowers were hell of a sight,” says Ken.

He believes Tommy Cooper was a shrewd businessman, with a keen eye for a bargain and who was never short of a bob or two.

The Coopers had a sideline - collecting rags. Their horse and cart did the rounds and, in the run-up to Christmas, they were especially busy. The Coopers supplied holly wreaths and mistletoe.

“Everything came from nature, except the rags,” said Ken.

“After Tommy’s death, his daffodil bulbs were dug up and sold. People came from as far afield as Cornwall to buy them.”

On Colyton Common a dew pond acted like a magnet for Tommy Cooper’s horses. It was filled in following his death, but a shed he once lived in nearby survives. It was moved, bit by bit, to Manor Farm and, up until a few years ago, was still used. Although still standing, a storm has stoved in its front elevation.

Tommy was a great horseman and his knowledge of all things equestrian earned him the respect of farmers and huntsman. The late Martin Salter, a former master of Axe Vale Hunt, was among those to recognise his affinity with horses.

The legend that was Tommy Cooper is recorded in the diary of former Seaton businessman Harry Clapp.
According to records kept at Axe Valley Heritage Museum, the Clapps were undertakers and supplied a hearse and five mourning carriages for the funeral of the Queen of the Gypsies. It is not known for sure who the Queen was, but it was before Priscilla Cooper’s death. In Harry Clapp’s own words, the Queen lived at Colyton Hill and was buried at Salcombe Regis. Gypsies from all over England and Wales attended her funeral. The horses used for the mourning carriages were kept at Huntshayne. Mourners met on Colyton Hill, but, according to Harry’s written record, several were drunk and slept until funeral-goers returned for the traditional burning of the Romany caravan.

Then, he recorded, a “great fight” broke out and the following day Tommy was seen with two black eyes and a very swollen face.
(With grateful thanks to Ted Gosling, curator, Axe Valley Heritage Museum, Seaton.)

Although Tommy and Priscilla Cooper had no children of their own, they ‘adopted’ a neighbour’s son.
The boy was one of a large number of children belonging to Clinton Estate shepherd Albert Boyland and his wife, who lived at Stafford Cottages.

He regularly accompanied them on outings to collect rags and other business.

It is recorded by Colytonians that the boy “always went home wearing lovely clothes”.

One of the many stories to come out of our appeal for more information about Priscilla and Tommy Cooper has nothing to do with them at all. However, it is about a Gypsy - and a very lucky one at that!

Bernard and Betty Pearce recall that Tilly, who lived at Stockland, visited Colyton for a dance. When she left the event to go home, she realised what a long walk she faced. In a nearby field, she caught a pony and rode it home. It was found by a constable tied to a tree after being reported missing. When asked about the pony, Tilly freely admitted riding it home and asked: “Am I in trouble?” “No!” she was told. n fact, it transpired, the farmer had been trying to catch the pony for three weeks and was willing to pay her £10 the next time he saw her - for breaking it in!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Eighty comments on Titchfield Common Gypsy site plan - Fareham

Almost 80 people have commented on a controversial application for a permanent one-caravan Gypsy site in Segensworth

The deadline for comments on the planning application for the site next to the Segensworth roundabout at the end of Segensworth Road, is tomorrow (Friday December 16).

The application, which has been made to Fareham Borough Council, is for one caravan and stables to permanently reside on land to the west of Segensworth Road.

Phil Rowe, the agent for the applicant Matthew James, said the proposal for the 0.94 hectare site was to change the use from agricultural land to accommodate a family of four and their two cars as permanent residents in a caravan.

He said: “We’re happy to work with the local community. There’s often consternation towards Gypsies but they’re entitled to make applications like anyone else in accordance with the planning policies.”

Last year an ice rink was located on the site, which was owned by Mr James, owner of Ice Pad UK.

Mr Rowe said there were no plans to have another ice rink this year, but they hoped to work with Fareham Borough Council in the future to find a suitable location for one.

Councillor Keith Evans, who represents Titchfield Common and is a member of the planning committee, said: “It is an application for change of use for that site so it can be used for permanent Gypsy accommodation.”

He said the land is currently designated as countryside land and that changing it was “an important decision and would not be taken lightly”.

He said the council had to allocate a set number of locations in the borough for permanent accommodation for Travellers and there are currently two located in Peel Common near Gosport and two at Titchfield Hill.

The application will be heard by the planning committee in the next few months.

No debate on Newport Gypsy site - South Wales

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build Gipsy and Traveller sites in Newport will not go before full council as they are not exceptional and the debate would likely be a shambles, the authority’s leader says.

Applications for five sites in Bettws, Marshfield and Nash will instead be discussed by the planning committee in the new year after Matthew Evans rejected Labour councillors’ plea for all members to have their say about the plans, which have attracted opposition from thousands of residents.
    Cllr Evans told Tuesday’s full council meeting he made the decision after consulting with planning committee chairman Cllr Richard White and seeking legal advice.

    He concluded that although the subject was an emotive one, it was not considered “exceptional”
    enough to warrant all councillors’ involvement and such a full debate was likely to be “shambolic”.

    He said the law stated only applications which would have an impact on the economy, development and environment of the whole city needed to be discussed by full council, and as the applications were for five relatively small sites, it was not needed.

    He added: “If the planning committee can make discussion on multi-million pound planning applications, they are good enough to decide this.”

    Labour councillors hit out at the decision branding it a “disgrace”.

    Cllr John Richards said opposition to the plans was growing across the city and the refusal of a full council debate “suppressed democracy”.

    He said: “I thought Matthew as leader you understood the feeling of people in this town but you have totally disregarded them on this issue.”

    Cllr Ron Jones expressed concern that many members of the planning committee would not be allowed to take part in the decision- making process as many of them had already aired their views on the issue in public.

    Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition against plans at Yew Tree Cottage, Bettws, while 400 people attended a public meeting opposing two proposed encampments at Pye Corner, Nash.

    Another site is planned at Pound Hill, Marshfield. More than 200 sites were initially considered.

    Gypsy campaigners new eviction battle - Meriden

    FACT is often stranger than fiction - and that couldn't be more true in the case of the Meriden campaigners who have been holding a 24-hour vigil at an unauthorised Gypsy site in the village for almost 600 days.

    Villagers set up a temporary shelter for their round-the-clock vigil base at the entrance to the Eaves Green lane site when the Travellers moved in over a year-and-a-half ago.

    They have held vigil, led campaigns, urged legal action and made representations to local and national Government in what has been a successful bid to have the Travellers evicted.

    But in an ironic twist, Solihull Council's Planning Committee is now being asked at its December 21 meeting to vote on whether or not to evict the protesters from their makeshift base - despite the Travellers still not being booted out.

    David McGrath, leader of the protesters' group Meriden RAID has hit back at the council's push for their eviction saying it was adding insult to injury.

    "The action is totally unnecessary as we have already signalled our intention to leave when they take enforcement action against the Travellers," he added.

    "That is reasonable and fair.

    "It seems that it is easier to pick on law abiding taxpayers who care about the environment rather than the Travellers.
    "We have won our case and no-one wants to take action against the Travellers any time soon."

    Mr McGrath is calling on the council to defer a decision to allow discussions to take place to agree a voluntary timescale for withdrawal 'just like they would do with the Travellers'.
    He added: "We will not be wasting money on legal appeals.

    "The money that we normally raise at this time of year as a community is for deserving Charities and we wont waste it fighting the council instead.

    "They need to be realistic and work with us otherwise it will escalate."

    He conceded that if the council ordered the protesters to remove their shelter then they would comply but would simply return and sit on the ground - and snow if necessary - to continue their protest.

    "We do not want the taxpayers to spend any money evicting us – unlike the Travellers who string out legal appeals," he added.

    If Councillors approve the action the protesters could be asked to move within 28 days or face the baliffs.

    River Lane Gypsies: 'Council has wrecked our futures' - Surrey

    GYPSIES have vowed not to leave their homes after councillors refused permanent planning permission for their site in River Lane.

    hree applications for "permanent use of the land as a gypsy and traveller caravan site" were submitted to Mole Valley District Council's (MVDC), but last week the planning committee voted 9 to 6 to reject all three.
    Planning officers had earlier submitted a report detailing the eight-year history of the site, adding that "on balance" permission should be granted.

    But the majority of councillors disagreed, saying that would "set a precedent" for more green belt sites in future.

    The issue has been disputed since the Gypsies moved onto the Leatherhead land in 2003 – and the controversy looks set to continue.

    Susan King, who lives on the site, said: "If they try and put an eviction notice on the site we will then go back to the High Court, and there's no judge who will come down and put us off the land when council officers have recommended to accept it (the planning application). It's ridiculous."

    She added: "Those councillors have wrecked our Christmas and our futures and our children's futures. We were gobsmacked to be honest."

     At the planning meeting last Wednesday, Councillor Rosemary Dickson (Conservative, Leatherhead South) said: "We all have to abide by the law whether we like it or not. They knew before they moved onto the land that it was green belt and should not have moved onto it.

    "If you take away the emotion from this, and the names and the fact it involves Gypsies, and replaced those names with doctors and dentists, would we be considering their application? I do not think so."

    Councillor Emile Aboud (Conservative, Fetcham West) said the site caused "substantial and significant harm to the green belt and its objectives".

    The dispute began in 2003 when Gypsies bought and moved onto the land and built permanent structures, before seeking retrospective planning permission.

    In 2007, a planning inspector granted four years' temporary permission to give MVDC time to find alternative sites, but none were identified by the council.

    The Gypsy families living on the site have six months to appeal the latest decision.

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Gypsy Auschwitz short film premiere at Milford Haven

    A film about the fate of Gypsies in the Holocaust, made by young people from Pembrokeshire's Gypsy and Traveller community, is to have its premiere.

    Members of the Priory Project, Monkton, visited the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps where 20,000 Roma Gypsies were killed during World War II.

    Their seven minute film, Gypsies in Auschwitz, will be shown at Milford Haven's Torch Theatre at 17:30 GMT.

    Partly animated, it will be included in a resource pack for Welsh schools.

    Between 1941 and 1944, some 23,000 European Roma people were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps by the Nazis. Only 2,000 survived.

    Twelve young women involved with the Priory Project, which works with 204 children from the community who are integrated into 10 schools in the county, went on the trip to Poland in July.

    Aged between 17 and 18, they visited both camps, obtaining special permission to film there.

    The idea for the film came after members of Pembrokeshire's Gypsy and Traveller community were invited to Cardiff by First Minister Carwyn Jones to say a prayer on Holocaust Memorial Day last January.

    Bev Stephens, head of the Gypsy and traveller education service in Pembrokeshire, explained: "Coming back in the car afterwards the girls came up with the idea of visiting Auschwitz."

    The trip and film were made with funding from the Save The Children Fund and Film Agency Wales.

    "We had to get special permission to film but we felt it was important that for all those young people who wouldn't be able to go to have some understanding of what it was about," said Ms Stephens.

    "There is very little information on the Gypsy Roma story at Auschwitz."

    For the group of 12 the experience proved "very harrowing," she said. "There were times when they were absolutely sobbing.

    The group visited both Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.

    "I questioned whether I had done the right thing in taking them but they felt that, although it was awful, it was something that everybody should do.

    "They had had no real understanding of what had gone on."

    The tour was in two parts - first a visit to Auschwitz and then, after a 20-minute journey, a tour of Birkenau.

    "As soon as we got into the minibus to go to Birkenau the girls were wanting to phone home," said Ms Stephens. "The most poignant part of the film is those conversations with their families.
    "The visit had a huge effect. Some of the girls told me afterwards it had been life-changing.

    "For them there was the realisation that, if Britain had lost the war, they would have been the next to go to the camps."

    After the trip younger members of the community who had not been on the trip worked on some animated sequences for the film with producer Gerald Conn.

    "They created animated sequences, dealing with happened in a metaphorical way, that interact with the documentary footage," said Mr Conn.

    Images used include the piles of crutches, spectacles and shoes which can still be found in rooms at Auschwitz.

    Mr Conn, who previously worked with the Priory Project on another film, Travelling Harpists, said: "The Welsh government is developing a resource pack for schools on the subject of Gypsies and travellers.

    "It's very likely that they will use the film for the resource pack."

    Showmen and neighbours fear for future of site - Scunthorpe

    Residents are concerned about council plans to fill the remaining plots on a Traveller site which is currently the home of a Traveller community.

    Occupants of the Manifold Road Traveller site, Scunthorpe, and neighbouring residents have come to the Telegraph to express their fears over the future of the £500,000 development which was made a permanent mobile home site.
    Residents say they have tried to get answers from North Lincolnshire Council on the future of the remaining eight empty plots but to no avail.

    One habitant, who did not wish to be named, fears that if the council decides to fill up the remaining spots it will cause a clash of cultures.

    He said: "We cannot get any answers from the council. I understand that people need somewhere to live but this is a Showman's caravan park for travelling Showmen – that's our culture. I've been here 23 years and my wife has been here for 40 years.

    "I am not saying other Travellers are all vagabonds but we all read the papers and watch the news and saw what it did to the community at Dale Farm in and around the area."

    The plots were made for any kind of mobile homes and currently the majority of residents work in the Showman industry. But although the current Showmen say they could find Travellers to fill the remaining plots, they say there isn't much room for the storage of showman equipment.

    The wife of the Showman, who also did not wish to be named, said: "We know a lot of Showman travellers who want to live on here and we could get it filled for them [the council]."

    The showman added: "But if any Showmen want to come and live down here and turn up with rides, they cannot get on because there is no room to store rides."

    North Lincolnshire Council announced the £534,569 spend for the Travellers' site in Manifold Road, Scunthorpe, in January 2009. After delays, improvement work to install water supply, drainage, electricity and sanitation at the site got underway.

    The Travellers say they are happy with the work that has been carried out so far but fear for its future.
    A study by Salford University found 46 permanent and five temporary pitches would be needed for Travellers in North Lincolnshire by 2016.

    A council spokesman said: "The council runs the Manifold Road Caravan Site as a licensed site under the Mobile Homes Act 1983.

    "Anyone, regardless of race, religion, disability or other protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, can apply to live on the site but must go through stringent checks before being offered a pitch."

    Tuesday, 13 December 2011

    Councillors want checks on Gypsy site proposal - Shropshire

    A CONTROVERSIAL application to establish a new site for Gypsies and Travellers opposite Henlle Park Golf Club has been refused, with its applicants told they can resubmit once checks have been carried out.

     The North Shropshire Planning Committee last week rejected the proposal put forward by Mr and Mrs J. Berry for a site opposite Henlle Golf club in Gobowen, seeking a change of use to allow the siting of four chalets and the erection of washroom and kitchen facilities as well as creation of, landscaping, carparking and drainage.

    The North Shropshire planning committee refused the application in line with officers’ recommendations, but admitted the issues for refusal were ‘finely balanced.’ An initial application had been put before the committee in April 2010 when the first caravans entered the site and building work on the former waste site commenced despite a stop notice by Shropshire Council.

    Addressing the meeting Councillor David Lloyd described the applicant’s actions as ‘a breathtakingly blatant disregard of the rules’ describing how excavators had moved in, a site office had been introduced, hedges ripped out and gates erected.

    The planning officer’s appraisal noted: “This application is to establish a new site for Gypsies and Travellers. The development of such sites by their very nature are often contentious however local planning authorities are obliged to ensure that the accomodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers is assessed and addressed through a planning led process.”

    Speaking at the meeting, Roy Jones Shropshire Council’s former counties Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer said the applicants had provided evidence of their local connection and that the other families proposed to live on the site were ‘known’ to the council’s current liaison officer.

    The committee’s chairman Karen Calder however, pointed out  that the names of the other proposed residents had only been submitted ‘at the eleventh hour’ leaving insufficient time to properly verify their local connection.

    Councillors said it was for this reason that they were refusing the application but added there was no reason the applicants could not resubmit once the checks had been carried out.

    Monday, 12 December 2011

    Tales of Gypsies and Travellers from Merseyside-based Traveller Alexander J Thompson

    Janet Tansley talks to the Merseyside man behind a new book about the travelling community

    IT was the television series we couldn’t stop talking about that lifted the lid of on the lives of the travelling community.

    My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which returns to our screens tomorrow for a festive special, introduced us to the extravagant traditions and rituals of an often maligned section of society.

    Now Merseyside-based traveller Alexander J Thompson has decided to tell his own tales of Gypsy life in a new book. A feat made even more remarkable by the fact the 56-year-old admits he finds it difficult to read or write.

    “I knew I had a story to tell, I just wasn’t sure how to explain it,” he says. “But as with anything else, I will always find a way.

    “Several years ago it struck me that the comical and awkward situations which I, and my fellow Travellers, find ourselves in would make interesting and amusing reading. Shortly afterwards, we were approached by the TV people at Channel 4 who wanted to make the programme My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

    “Encouraged by seeing my children and grandchildren in the series, and the programme’s popularity, I decided to write the book.”

    That book is Gypsy and Travellers Tales, a collection of stories as recounted to ghostwriter author James Devere.

    “I couldn’t really read it,” admits Alexander. “But it was wonderful to finally see the book that I had written.”
    Alexander spent much of his time in Liverpool after setting sail from Ireland in the 60s, mainly based in the official Travellers’ camp in city centre Oil Street.

    He recalls: “I have travelled a lot. I have been to many places and I have seen some amazing things. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to the old tales of Ireland, how life was then and how things have changed.

    “At the time I was stuck on a camp with caravans parked up any old way, on an old croft where houses had stood before being demolished.

    “Our camp was in a vast open area...our caravans were mainly old but clean. Outside, the odd broken-down truck and scrap cars could be found lying around alongside an open fire and a black pot full of food was simmering away, while we youngsters played in the puddles, covered in dirt and freezing cold.

    “I daydreamed that when I was older and it was my turn to go out in one of the trucks with the adults looking for scrap iron, or being on the hand roller doing a Tarmac job for my father, I would be in no rush to return.

    “The children were free labour for the fathers when times were hard but, as a rule, you got ten bob for your efforts, which was fantastic.

    “I was driving around the camps at the age of 12 or 13 and bought my first truck when I was 15, a BMC five tonner for £45.”