News about Britain
Councils must find Gypsy sites
According to a recent announcement made by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, local councils in Britain will have to provide legal sites for travelling communities. However, they will also gain stronger powers to move on illegal settlements.
For many years in Britain, there have been disputes between Gypsy or travelling communities and the local residents of area where they set up camp. Until 1994, a law meant that local councils had a duty to provide sites for travellers. However, since this law was changed, many councils closed existing sites, and did not set up new ones. As a result of this, as well as an increase in the numbers of travellers, it is thought that currently there are 3,500 caravans with no legal place to stop.
In the village of Minety, in Wiltshire, where one of the most controversial sites is; its occupants who moved into the area in August 2003, and local campaigners remain embroiled in a legal battle. Although the Gypsies there own the land they are on, they did not have planning permission for development before they put up fences, laid roads, pipes and electrical cables.
Local residents who are complaining claim that they are unhappy about the law-breaking and anti-social behaviour which the site represents rather than the people themselves, however, travellers in the area said that there was a lot of racism towards the Gypsies.
Not all residents though, are against the Gypsy community. One resident interviewed said that wild rumours had branded the Gypsies as thieves and criminals with no evidence to support the allegations
A residents association chairman involved in a campaign in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, pointed out that the accommodation issue should be separated from the behaviour issue, and that only a tiny percentage of travellers caused problems.
travellers and gypsies.