From the Western Gazette
A SOMERSET woman who represented the Romani Gypsy community in planning disputes has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Romani rights campaigner Maggie Smith Bendall has worked on planning cases all over the country, including Somerset. She has been given a British Empire Medal in recognition of her voluntary service to community relations.
Mrs Smith Bendell said: "When I found out about the honour I couldn't speak for five minutes. For the first time in my life I was totally shocked and very tearful.
"I hope this will inspire the younger generation to come out and start doing things as I have done. I am still very involved with planning issues and I am also chair of the UK Association For Gypsy Women's Rights."
In October 2005, Mrs Smith Bendall defended Gypsies who had occupied a field in North Curry and set up camp without planning permission.