Travelling without moving

July 27th, 2010 § 3 comments

There is a story in the Guardian about some Gypsies and travellers that are going to be evicted from thier homes.

I feel a bit dirty writing this post as it feels very right-wing to me, but there are themes that keep coming up when this happens. This isn’t a comment on this specific case.

A number of Gypsies and Travellers have lived at Dale Farm entirely legally since the 1960s.

Gypsies have been there since the sixties or some specific individual Gypsies have been there since the sixties? Either way, if they have been there for forty-odd years, why are they being evicted now? Surely the legal process isn’t *that* long winded.

But the land the newcomers bought at Dale Farm is protected greenbelt, making development on it illegal. After a five-year court battle with the council, bailiffs have been appointed to evict nearly 90 families from the unauthorised plots.

First of all, if there have been Gypsies there since the sixties, they’re hardly ‘newcomers’.
It’s greenbelt, nobody is allowed to develop it. although others are probably subtler at getting round the planning laws. How long has the area been greenbelted? When was the land bought? If the Gypsies were there before is became a designated greenbelt area, surely they can be exempted or at least given some sort of leway.

a 69-year-old grandmother who has lived at Dale Farm with her family for eight years.

Eight years on one site? Isn’t she supposed to be a traveller?

The Travellers say planning laws are biased against them, and that they have nowhere else to go. “There are some really sick people here who can’t go back on the road,” McCarthy says. “Without an address you can’t get doctors, our kids can’t go to school. The camps we used to pull in to have been closed and barricaded up. Travelling life is finished for Travellers.”

Are planning laws really biased or do gypsies just pick unsuitable land? If a housing development isn’t allowed in a greenbelt area, why should an estate for travellers be allowed? I’m not going to generalise and say *all* the sites where gypsies settle are turned into housing estates, but some are, with bungalows and mobile homes.

You can get a doctor without an address and if you travel around your kids will miss school. If you want your kids to have a good education and you’re not up to home schooling (this isn’t a slight, god knows I couldn’t do it) then maybe you have to sacrifice something, perhaps not travelling might be an idea.

Unfortunately the loss of pitches is very real, due to the loss of common land and possibly land owners, due to the behaviour of a small minority, not wanting to risk being unable to get travellers off the land again or the devastation that they leave behind when they do move on.

Just one square mile of land would be enough to provide all Gypsy and Traveller families in the UK with a place to stay, according to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, but there is a shortage of authorised pitches. The government, however, has just cut £30m of funding for new sites.

If you choose to move around and not settle in one place, you put yourself at the risk of whoever owns the land you want to stop on, unless you own the land yourself. Even then you have to abide the law. Is there any difference between a traveller buying a plot of land on a greenbelt to develop and a non-traveller that buys a plot of land to build a house on? Not really. In fact, non at all.
I am not going to say anything about the government funding of pitches as this could be equated to the provision of council housing.

“They’ll just keep moving us on from other places, so what good will they have done anyone by putting us out of here?” McCarthy asks. “Everybody has to have somewhere to live, somewhere to go. Why can’t we be left to stay in peace and quiet on land we bought and paid for?”

Yes, everyone has to have somewhere to live, but if the plots bought for development were picked with a bit more thought or research maybe developing them wouldn’t be a problem and the gypsies wouldn’t get into such confrontations.

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§ 3 Responses to Travelling without moving"

  • Carl Eve says:

    My old patch.
    There are two parts to the land. Those that acquired it and then legally got planning permission.
    Those that much later bought neighbouring land which was cut up into small plots, which they then built on and much later did retrospective planning applications. Which Basildon Council turned down.
    The last several years have been a loooooong list of appeals to local, national and eventually European courts on a variety of grounds.
    Those that have been there since the 60s are not at risk of eviction. Because they are there “legally” as far as planning law is concerned.
    There are a shed load of “illegal” buildings/caravans/static homes on the other plots and they have been on notice of being evicted for at least five years.

    • Sim-O says:

      Thanks for the bit of information, Carl.

      It’s quite interesting that it wasn’t mentioned in the Guardian article that only *some* people were faced with eviction, and as you point out, it’s not like they have been refused the chance to appeal the decisions.

      But anyway, gypsies and travellers do need somewhere to stop, why shouldn’t people travel around if they want, but why should others have to pay for….aaargh! I’m turning right-wing again…!!

  • Carl Eve says:

    I know, it’s a liberal nightmare. I’ve been on that site a couple of times, once to speak to travellers about threats they suffered from a nutter “boss” traveller from Cambrideshire (only one old guy had the stones to reveal all, then my paper refused to print the gory details) and another for an eviction (very labour intensive operation).

    For most people, it’s black and white. Planning permission, no planning permission. Which is why it can result in a Marmite response even for anyone of a left-leaning mindset.

    What they also didn’t state is it’s considered Europe’s largest “illegal” travellers site. For a lot more history and in-depth local reporting, check out Jon Austin’s incredible investigative work in


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