WISBECH: Romany Gypsy family say they will fight council to stay and become part of community
EXCLUSIVE by: MAGGIE GIBSON ROMANY Gypsy families who want to settle on a site near Wisbech say they will fight a council for the right to stay and become part of the community. We are not doing any harm. They are hurting the children by not giving them
EXCLUSIVE by: MAGGIE GIBSON
ROMANY Gypsy families who want to settle on a site near Wisbech say they will fight a council for the right to stay and become part of the community.
"We are not doing any harm. They are hurting the children by not giving them the chance to have a permanent education. It is a chance for us to be part of the community and settle down but also to live our own way," said Diane Lee
"There have been no objections from the locals, the schools are happy to take our children, we use the local shops - the only objections we have had are from the council."
The three families have moved onto a site called Poplars Way at Redmoor Lane, and are in the process of applying for planning permission to Fenland District Council.
The council says the site is unsuitable because of a risk of flooding - an objection which the travellers say is not valid.
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Traveller Betty Curtis says the land has been gifted to the families by Reuben Stewart who owns the adjoining Little Acre site. He has recently had a planning application and an appeal turned down to extend his site because of the flood risk. The council is currently taking enforcement action against Mr Stewart.
A spokesman for a registered charity and advocacy service which is helping the families prepare their planning applications said: "Mr Stewart has gifted the land to these families and they are in receipt of the deeds and the paper work which prove that it is their land.
"The families will be putting in their own applications. They don't want to build on the land, the families just want to live how they are living here now. The council has said there is a flood risk but we have talked to a person at the council who told us there has been no flooding here since 1977 and the measures which are now in place are more than sufficient to stop it. The families are perfectly willing to have a flood risk assessment done."
The spokesman said if the applications were refused the families would certainly appeal. She said there was a duty to support travellers to live their chosen and traditional lifestyle.
Betty Curtis says the families have asked to meet council representatives on the site but have had no response. She said: "We just want a permanent home, there will not be lots of others coming onto the site so people do not need to fear that."
• A council spokesman described the site in question as "unacceptable" for planning permission.
"It is in a major flood risk zone," he said, "And it will endanger people lives if there was a flood.
"It is therefore completely unacceptable and we will not allow it.