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News about Britain

Councils must find Gypsy sites

Gypsy caravan

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.

Recent newspaper reports about the results of this announcement have been criticised and accused of inciting racial hatred against travellers and gypsies.

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.

 

Vocabulary

local councils
government departments which are responsible for particular areas in Britain

settlements
an area where people live, usually where they have recently moved to

inciting
to incite means to urge or encourage people to do something

travellers and gypsies.
In Britain the word travellers is used to talk about people who have no permanent home but move around the country. This includes: Anglo-Roma Gypsies and Irish Travellers whose groups have been travelling the country for centuries; and new travellers, meaning people who have started living as travellers more recently. Another word often used to talk about Gypsies is 'Romany'. In many countries the word Gypsy refers to a particular ethnic group called the Roma. Note the change in spelling in the plural - Gypsy / Gypsies

disputes
arguments or disagreements

set up
to set up means to create or establish

caravans
mobile homes which can be pulled by a vehicle or horses

controversial
something which lots of people with different opinions feel strongly about is controversial

campaigners
people who are campaigning or protesting about something

embroiled
heavily involved with

planning permission
written permission from the council which is required to build on your land

development
building houses, roads, fences etc

anti-social behaviour
although anti-social can describe someone who doesn't like talking to people, this term has started to be used to mean behaviour or actions such as vandalism, theft, and other law-breaking which affects other people

wild rumours
rumours are stories that are passed from person to person which are not necessarily true. The word wild implies that the stories which are being said are very unlikely to be true.

branded
labelled or identified, usually as something bad

allegations
something which is claimed but not proven

pointed out
to point out is to say something which others may not have thought of

 

 
 
YOUR VOTE
 
How would you describe Gypsies?

Victims of racism.
Law-breakers.
I don't know.


 
 
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RELATED LINKS
 
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Will Minety Gypsies be able to stay?
 
 
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Gypsy campaign raises ethics issue
 
 
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Councils 'must find Gypsy sites'
 
 
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A guide to Gypsies and Travellers
 
 
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Romany roots - people talk about their Romany heritage
 
 
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