Little Hallingbury gypsies make final plea

PUBLISHED: 09:31 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 07:37 30 May 2010

A HEARTFELT plea to stay put because there is no where else to go has been heard at an inquiry to decide whether a group of gypsies can live on green belt land. In October 2009 a group of travellers moved caravans and several vehicles on to a site next

A HEARTFELT plea to stay put because there is "no where else to go" has been heard at an inquiry to decide whether a group of gypsies can live on green belt land.

In October 2009 a group of travellers moved caravans and several vehicles on to a site next to the M11 motorway in Little Hallingbury, without permission.

They set up electrical connections, an unauthorised water connection and installed lighting, as well as laying down hardcore and gravel.

Since then Uttlesford District Council has tried to evict them but the gypsies have appealed and say they should be allowed to remain because there is no option to move elsewhere in the district.

Landowner Terrance Jones, who is a landscape gardener, purchased the land for £31,000 after the whole group saved up cash for five years.

Giving evidence at the inquiry he said: "We have been moved from pillar to post and we can't afford to buy any other land.

"If we get moved from here will be forced to live on the roadside again. We are tired of being knocked up by police and councils at six in the morning and forced to move on. We have no where else to go."

Before moving to the land at Little Hallingbury the group lived in Harlow, but the authorities took action and forced them out.

Uttlesford council has been forced to take a softer approach due to a lack of gypsy sites within the district.

Expressing deep concerns on air quality, because of the M11 just yards away, and the destruction of green belt land, council representative Christina Oliva said: "This land was a green meadow before, it is now covered.

"It is stark in appearance and the policy of this council is to protect its open spaces. There is a danger to the health of the occupants and that is a case to refuse permanent dwelling."

However planning expert Angus Murdoch also spoke at the inquiry and said the council's data on air quality could not be substantiated. He added that the council is currently well short of its target to have at least 25 gypsy sites in place by 2011.

"Why couldn't this [the site] be one of them," he said. "According to the regional special strategy there is an urgent and substantial need for gypsy pitches in Uttlesford."

Planning inspector Felix Bourne told The Broadcast that his final decision will be made in under five weeks following the inquiry which took place at Great Hallingbury village hall on Tuesday (April 27).

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