Nov 24 2005
By Nicola Rider
RESIDENTS in River Lane fear they will suffer "nervous breakdowns" if a court order, which is being sought to remove gypsy families from land in Leatherhead, takes too long.
The seven gypsy families were given 12 months to move from the site in River Lane by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on November 17 last year.
But no attempt had been made by the families to move by the midnight deadline last Friday and Mole Valley District Council have started court proceedings against them.
But homeowners in River Lane believe that if the families are not moved on soon, their living situation will become even more intolerable.
One said: "We're only four houses. We are a forgotten minority. It's a ludicrous situation.
"If they are allowed to stay another year it's probably nervous breakdown time."
Mole Valley council's principal solicitor, Chris Harris said: "The council has instructed outside solicitors to proceed with seeking an injunction against all the occupiers and we wish to obtain a court hearing at the earliest opportunity."
Some of the occupiers of the River Lane site have breached a previous injunction, which stated the land should not be used as a gypsy caravan site.
These committal proceedings are set to be heard in court on December 1 against two male gypsies.
Mr Harris said: "This hearing will go ahead, and we will also be seeking an injunction against all the occupants of the site to ensure that they comply with the terms of the enforcement notices by removing themselves, their caravans, structures and fencing and to leave the land as it was.
"This is a discretionary remedy and the judge can give them whatever period of time he thinks is right to leave River Lane."
But the residents are furious the gypsies could be allowed to stay even longer.
A spokesman for the four households said: "Obviously the gypsies are supposed to go but we all know they are not going to because they have made no attempt to leave."
He added: "We've lived with this for two-and-a-half years and they should go. It's an absolutely unbelievably horrible situation."
But the gypsy families have made several good friends while they have been living in the area and have a lot of support to stay.
Jenny Moore runs a community shop in Leatherhead and believes the town would be a better place if the gypsies stay.
She said: "I have appreciated so much getting to know the families through the shop and the local school.
"I believe that Leatherhead would be a better place if we could find a way to accommodate this community."
A small group of people including Jenny, gypsy Susan King and friend Naomi Langley have been arranging meetings between the gypsy families and MVDC for the last few months.
Ms Langley said: "I want to find a way to enable them to stay and firmly believe there is a solution out there, we just need time to find it."
But leader of the district council, Councillor Tim Hall (Con, Fetcham West), believes MVDC is determined to return the site to Green Belt land.
Speaking to The Advertiser he said: "The council is very determined that land will go back to the Green Belt land it should be.
"They are very keen to be at River Lane and we are very keen they are moved.
"We have talked to Epsom and Ewell Council about legal sites they could move to."
But gypsy Susan King, from the River Lane site, does not want to have to uproot her family.
She said: "It will be absolutely devastating for us to leave. It is our home and our children's future.
"I think the hardest thing about leaving would be uprooting the children and trying to start again somewhere else, not knowing where that somewhere else will be.
"We've made such good relationships with the community and we've made such good friends in the schools and shops, it will be a nightmare to have to move."
Well, these are indeed Romanichals and where are Grattan uxon and USHTIBEN and all the other helpful people? Too busy at the Irish Traveller village outside Basildon. But no one is here to help the Kings who indeed are Romanichals and not just Irish Trailer Trash. And no, I am making no apologies for the use of that term, none whatsoever.