From the Western Gazette
An MP has stepped into a long-running dispute over a Travellers’ site near Merriott.
The Hughes family has been embroiled in a legal battle with the site’s landowners Somerset County Council since they moved on to land at Eggwood in May 2008.
Residents of Merriott, Hinton St George and Lopen who have been lobbying the authority to resolve the issue and have called on Yeovil MP David Laws to help conclude the situation.
Mr Laws and Paul Maxwell, who is district councillor for the Eggwood ward and county councillor for South Petherton, met officials from both local authorities recently to thrash out the issue. In the last week the two met Somerset County Council’s chief executive Sheila Wheeler, who they say have promised to make the matter a “priority.”
Mr Laws said: “I’m very well aware of the frustration of local residents about how long it is taking the county council to sort this matter out.
“I share this frustration myself.
“The chief executive promised to make the resolution of this a priority and we all agreed that it’s high time that this community resource was returned to the people of Lopen, Hinton St George and Merriott.”
Traveller mum Emma Hughes said her family are trying to find somewhere else to go and just want to be treated fairly while they wait for a new home. She said: “We are trying to do things the right way, we know we can’t stay on this site forever but at the moment we have nowhere else to go.”
The family has unsuccessfully sought planning permission for a site in Haselbury Plucknett and are now appealing against its refusal.
The Eggwood site – which borders Merriott, Hinton St George and Lopen – is a beauty spot. Lopen residents have said that in recent years they feel it has become a “no-go area” for them.
A county council spokesman said: “We appreciate that local residents are unhappy about the situation and we can assure them we are doing what we can to sort this matter out. The county council has tried through the courts to resolve the unauthorised occupation of the amenity land at Eggwood Hill.
“The council is currently preparing a comprehensive case to make a renewed legal effort to get the land back while also taking into account the relevant welfare, educational and health needs of the occupants, in particular the six children involved.”