News Shorts & Other Busyness
Get Off Your Land
Squall 9, Jan/Feb 1995, pg. 7.
Eighteen months ago a group of travellers bought two acres of land between Chepstow and Coleford, in Gloucestershire, near the site of the May Forest Fayre.
They then applied for planning permission to have 10 ‘family units’ (vehicles) on the site. Permission was refused. All subsequent applications have also been denied. The travellers received the decision for their last appeal in December, they were refused again and given three months to get off their own land.
Kate, one of those living on the site and fighting the case, told SQUALL the decision was devastating. There are eight children on the site, some settled at a local school and the eviction date on March 14th falls right in the middle of the school year.
Locals have been sympathetic and some spoke for the travellers at their hearing, but the council has acted regardless of positive responses and seems to have no desire to even consider the travellers as a welcome part of the community. Kate said the travellers’ land is a much sought after plot. Ironically the council would apparently prefer to see a house built on what it chooses to describe as an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’.
“What’s really annoying is that they’ve been saying they want to make it easier for travellers to provide their own sites,” Kate continued. Under the Criminal Justice Act local authorities no longer have a statutory obligation to provide sites. The Government has defended its move by suggesting travellers be encouraged to go through local planning procedures and secure their own sites.
Legally, the travellers could have been given permission to remain on the site with a review after two years. Even if the land is environmentally sensitive the travellers could have been given advice or assistance in finding a new site in a less sensitive area. However, the council is clearly not after a positive solution. “We wanted a year if we got kicked off,” said Kate, “so we’d have time to find another piece of land, but the council got what they wanted right down the line. We got no leeway”.
The travellers now plan to go for a judicial review using the Children’s Act to prove council negligence in not offering the families alternative accommodation and acting without any regard for the children on the site. At the very least they want a time extension until the end of the current school year. Their greatest fear, says Kate, is that “they will Criminal Justice us”. There are rumours that local police have asked permission to forcibly remove them using the Criminal Justice Act if they fail to leave on the eviction date.