TRAVELLERS living on one of the country’s most controversial sites say they would happily move on – if they could find another site.
Families have been living on the small patch of green belt land, in Eaves Green Lane, Meriden, for nearly two years.
Since then protesters have kept a 24 hour vigil on a nearby site and led a high profile campaign.
Travellers living on the land, named Hill Side Park, have kept a low profile in the media.
But Senga Townsley, who lives in Hill Side park with her three sisters, has now chosen to speak out to say that they only moved on to the site in the first place because they had no choice.
And she says a chronic shortage of sites, combined with a series of regional campaigns against new ones has made moving on even tougher for the families.
“When we pulled on here we never thought in a million years we would get this reaction,” she said.
“We didn’t think people would love the idea, we’re not stupid, but we didn’t think there would be protesters outside.
“In the beginning it was really difficult. The tension was high. We would be photographed going in and out of the site. There were crowds of people outside.”
The Travellers used to live on a yard in Balsall Common but when Traveller Noah Burton split up with his wife they were forced to move on.
It left Mr Burton, who had previously bought the site in Meriden as an investment, and his family with a tough choice.
Senga said: “We had nowhere else to go. We heard that if we pulled on to land and applied retrospectively then we might have a chance.
“At least then we would get a hearing. Something like 80 per cent of all planning applications from travellers get turned down. Alternatively 80 per cent of planning applications from the settled community are approved “We weren’t sure if it was worth it, but at least bit gave us a chance. And we didn’t have a choice really.”
Since they moved on to the land Mr Burton and his family have had a planning application turned down and lost the subsequent appeal.
They are currently appealing against that decision.
Solihull Borough Council plan to restart eviction proceedings against them in March.
On Wednesday night campaigners who have set up a protest camp illegally on green belt land were told enforcement action would be taken against them after a council meeting. They have until March to leave.
Senga added: “We can understand why people are angry. But what we don’t understand is why it’s become so personal.
“There is no ill will at all towards the protesters – our battle is with the council and trying to get planning permission.
“We have a big enough fight on our hands just finding somewhere to live.
“If they are so keen for us to move then why not concentrate their efforts on helping us find somewhere else?
“I know the villagers keep saying this site is like a new Dale Farm, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Senga said
“We work, we pay council tax, often to authorities who are trying to evict us, and we even have TV licences.’’
A POLITICIAN has blasted Solihull council for evicting protesters in Meriden – and blamed European human rights legislation for the situation.
West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire says she is “horrified” that campaigners in Eaves Green Lane will be kicked off their green belt site next month.
She blamed the European Convention on Human Rights for bestowing “special rights” on the travellers.
She said: “With the protection of the convention, so-called Travellers can build on land that our people have nurtured and set aside for future generations to enjoy.”