Gypsy Families Granted Planning Permission After Long Battle with Local Council While Others Still Fighting in the UK
A group of Gypsy/Traveller families, including twenty-one children, were granted permission to set up seven permanent sites in the village of Weston Turville in Buckinghamshire County, southern England, according to the BBC report of January 20, 2004. A planning inspector granted planning permission after the families appealed the repeated denial of permission by the Aylesbury Vale District Council over a period of about three years. The BBC reported that local residents had fought for the eviction of the families because "it would look out of character in the rural area." The planning inspector, in his decision, stated that the settlement of the families and the education of the children in the group were more important than the effects of the site on the natural beauty of the area, according to the BBC. The failure of the Aylesbury Vale District Council and the Buckinghamshire County Council to provide much needed new sites for Gypsy/Travellers was reportedly also a deciding factor for the planning inspector.
In other news, on January 12, 2004, the BBC reported that twelve bailiffs attempting to evict twenty-one Traveller families from their land in the town of Bulkington in Warwickshire County, central England, retreated after a six-hour stand-off. The families, who moved onto the land, located on a greenbelt area, after purchasing it two-and-a-half years earlier, had reportedly dug 7 foot wide trenches at the entrance to the site, which they filled with garbage and lit ablaze along with two caravans in an effort to stop their eviction. Forty police officers at the scene of the incident blocked the road to passersby. According to the BBC, the Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council, which set aside 100,000 British pounds (approximately 149,500 Euro) to finance the eviction, had pursued the families' eviction to the High Court because they had not applied for planning permission to set up a permanent site before moving onto the land. In November 2003, the High Court ordered the families to be evicted on January 12. The BBC reported that the families requested permission to purchase another plot of land they could develop. On January 13, the BBC quoted Mr Alan Franks, the Environmental Services Director of the Council as having stated, "As far as we know they have not looked at neighbouring local authorities to see where they can be accommodated. I would state on behalf of the local authorities that they have an obligation to look for another site."
Earlier, the BBC reported on October 7, 2003, that a group of Gypsy/Travellers who had for seven months occupied public land at Trevadoe, near Newlyn in Cornwall County, southwestern England, were fighting the efforts of the Cornwall County Council to evict them. Ms Anya Thompson, a Traveller residing at the site, stated that the site was empty until March 2003 aside from rubbish and topsoil, which the group used to level and landscape the site. Mr John Payne, a councillor from the nearby town of Penzance who resigned over the issue, was quoted as having stated that the area had fallen into disuse but "That does not mean to say that it is not going to be actively used again and indeed it has been used - for the storage of winter grit." Penzance councillor Joby Akira supported the group who she said had "radically enhanced" the area, stating, "It was […] just a dump for the county council. […] It is a place of real beauty now." One hundred and seven local residents however, and seventeen businesses had signed a petition supporting the Cornwall County Council's efforts to evict the families, according to the BBC.
In September 2003, a report issued by Lord Avebury found, "Local authorities which experience unauthorised encampments of travellers need to recognise the fact that any person living on an unauthorised site is homeless in law. Travellers do not want the upheaval of being moved on from unlawful sites, but do not have a choice if the local authorities fail to provide lawful sites", according to the BBC report of September 8, 2003. Lord Avebury, who examined the strategies of one hundred and fifty-two authorities under the Homelessness Act 2003, found that nearly 70 percent failed to mention Gypsy/Travellers. Further information on the situation of Gypsy/Travellers and Roma in the UK is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org/publications/indices/uk.shtml. (BBC, ERRC)