Gypsy Families Must Move After Green Belt Policy Prevails
Gypsy encampments are often unpopular with locals, but members of the travelling community have the same rights as everyone else and need somewhere to live. In one case, however, the High Court ruled that the need to preserve the Green Belt took priority and ordered a group of 13 families off a rural site.
The families had bought the farmland plots on which they stationed their caravans, and were all of good character and devout churchgoers. The local authority for the area, however, had characterised their unannounced arrival on the 1.3-hectare site as a carefully planned and executed surprise attack. A drone that was flown over the site captured images of more than 30 caravans, trees and vegetation having been cleared, hardcore deposited, pits dug and septic tanks installed.
The family’s lawyers pointed to the chronic shortage of official traveller sites in the area, which were said to have waiting lists of up to 40 years. However, the Court found that there had been substantial and unlawful development of the Green Belt that could not be tolerated. Despite recognising the difficult position in which the families found themselves, the Court issued an injunction requiring them to cease residential use of the site and move on within 14 days.