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Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - South East: Monday 20th January, 2003

TRAVELLERS

Bus on site
CARRY ON CAMPING | are legal sites the future for New Age Travellers?

After being forced to camp illegally for years, Brighton Council are the first to introduce a legal site for New Age Travellers.

Inside Out investigates whether the scheme has been a success.

New Age Travellers; three words that strike fear into the hearts of home owners and local councils alike. Yet three years ago, Brighton Council decided to tackle the problem head on and came up with what they believed to be a possible nation-wide solution.

Pitou
Long term traveller Pitou oversees the Horsdean site

Brighton Council set up a dedicated legal site for travellers, the first of it’s kind in the country. They did it in the hope that other councils would follow suit, providing more legal sites for travellers to move around to.

Even though the government is now offering £8 million for council’s to do so, others are reluctant to follow Brighton’s example. Inside Out investigates.

Legal site

Before it was set up three years ago, Horsdean on the outskirts of Brighton was an illegal site occupied by up to 50 vehicles. Now there are 23 clearly marked-out pitches with water and toilets provided at a cost of £20 a week per pitch.

The main attraction for the travellers however, is not the improved facilities, but the opportunity to pitch legally for six months.

Although not officially in charge, long term traveller Pitou, oversees the site. She favours Brighton for it’s laid back attitude.

Pitou's bus
Pitches are provided at a cost of £20 a week

"It’s quite an easy going alternative place… people don’t shout abuse at you for having dreadlocks," says Pitou.

Good standard of living

Traveller Twig, defends their way of life. "Lots of people can’t comprehend why you want to live in a truck….but most travellers choose it, most travellers work and have enough money to have a good standard of life."

In fact, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation stresses that the travellers place high importance on working to sustain their life on the road.

Inside Out presenter, Paul Ross spent a chilly, rather noisy night on the site, rising to a heavy frost and freezing water. Yet he describes the feeling as "much like that on any residential street."

14 year old Josh and his dad Mark have always been on the road. Josh even has his own bedroom - a separate van.

Drawbacks

Paul Ross with his sleeping bag
Paul spends a chilly night on site

Travellers say that the shared beliefs that come with the lifestyle allow them to settle issues on site within their own community. Herein lies the main drawback of the council-run site. The travellers are given no choice as to who pitches next to them, so that all important community spirit is lacking.

"This isn’t a proper travellers site, it’s like being in an Indian reservation in America, quite controlled," Says Twig

"They’ve spent quite a lot of money on this place and the idea is pretty good but it would have worked a lot better if they’d just gone, here’s a field, here’s a water tap, sort your life out," says Pitou.

Mark and Josh by their van
14 year old Josh and his dad Mark, have always been on the road

So this isn’t quite the ideal solution that it first seemed. Particularly as once their six months is up, they’re breaking the law again wherever they settle.

Had other local authorities followed suit, then a network would have formed for travellers to move around. But as yet, there are no plans for other councils in Kent and Sussex to develop similar sites.

Without the support from other councils, Brighton’s Horsdean can only provide a diluted solution to the problem of housing travellers.

Whilst humanitarian issues are being addressed with the introduction of basic facilities, the solution is only short-term. Once their six months come to an end, travellers are once again unwillingly forced to break the law. Freedom it seems will always come with a price.

 

 

 

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Travellers (Brighton and Hove City Council)
Horsdean (Brighton and Hove City Council)
Plan for travellers (This is Brighton and Hove)
The Travellers' Situation (Travellers)

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

matt fowler
im 14 years of age. i have never lived on the road. but i have been to numerous summer festivals with my family. my 21 year old brother has just recently moved on the road with the brighton travellers.

i've met mark, josh and numerous other travellers in brighton, and they mostly come across as law abiding, up together citezens. they generaly do not like to illegaly park there homes, but they are unfortunatly forced to do so, by the law.

i definately agree with the new council run site in brighton, and i hope that other councils in the area will take a leaf out of there book.

Edward Major
Although many people choose this lifestyle for "free spirit" motives, many are now turning to caravans or converted vehicles as their accommodation for no other reason than their inability to get a mortgage or pay high rents on lower incomes (especially here in the South).



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