NEIGHBOURS crowded into a planning appeal to block a convicted knife thug's attempt to stay in his home.
Gypsy Wayne Willett, his partner Sheree, their two sons Wayne Junior and Billy and baby daughter Charlotte have been told to quit Tootsie Farm in Elverland Lane, Ospringe, where they live in a mobile home and a caravan.
But neighbours say the encampment has spoiled the landscape of the picturesque Newnham Valley, which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ten residents turned up at the one-day hearing at Swale Borough Council's Sittingbourne headquarters on Wednesday but only two agreed to give their names to government inspector Victor Ammoun.
One resident, who refused to be identified, said other villagers had not attended the meeting for fear of reprisals.
He told the Times: "We are against the development because it is a beautiful bit of countryside that is being spoiled. But a lot of residents felt intimidated about turning up. We feel threatened."
Mr Willett was given an eight-year prison sentence for a knife attack in the garden of the former Hole In The Wall pub in Preston Street, Faversham, in 2007.
In the same year, a government planning inspector gave the family permission to stay at the farm for two years, with an extra year to vacate the site.
Following further delays due to an appeal, their time has now run out.
Swale's planning officer Graham Thomas said the site was unsuitable for homes, adding: "We have never had so many people come to oppose a planning appeal. It showed there has been no integration between the family and the community. There is no tie connecting this family to the site.
"The fundamental issue is that this is an area of natural beauty. It is simply not right for one individual to ruin the right of a society to enjoy the landscape."
But Alison Heine, representing Mr Willett, said the family had nowhere else to go and complained that there were not enough gypsy sites in the borough.
She said a council survey in 2007 showed the need for 62 pitches, nearly double the number available.
Mr Willett, now free from jail having served half his sentence, accused neighbours and the council of treating his family "diabolically" and said they had been forced to live "penned in like animals" so as not to be seen from the road.
He added: "If we had to move tomorrow we would, but we have nowhere else to go and no money.
"Roma Gypsies get a lot of stick from the community. It judges us and tars us all with the same brush.
"In the seven years I have lived there I have never done anything to harm the community. But the neighbours act as though we are filth. They want to see us out on the street."
But Sue Gunner, chairman of Newnham Parish Council, denied the claim. She said: "We would have responded the same way to any application, no matter who was making it."
The inspector is expected to make his decision in six weeks.