Traveller 'village' takes council by surprise

Monday 24th March 2008

A gypsy encampment has sprung up just 200 yards from the country home of government minister Tessa Jowell.

Dozens of travellers piled on to the site over the bank holiday weekend, setting up a water supply and laying electricity cables.

A septic tank has been installed and concrete pathways laid on the site, near the town of Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire. Fencing has also been erected and hedges have been pulled down.

Residents reported the caravans moved on to the two-and-a-half acre site on Friday, leading to accusations that the gypsies were taking advantage of the public holiday when nobody at Warwickshire County Council was working.

The field, which has space for at least 30 caravans, is just 200 yards from the country home of Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, 60, and her estranged husband David Mills.

It was reported the gypsies had bought the site from a local businessman.

Conservative councillor Chris Saint represents the area on Warwickshire County Council. He said: "Up until last Thursday it was simply a piece of pasture land. On Friday morning I got a call from one of the parish councillors to say that there was some frenzied activity taking place on the field.

"We view it with alarm because I have no information about a planning application even being lodged, let alone granted, and I would be the first to know.

"I understand that water and electricity have been brought on and I also understand they have put in a sceptic tank and put down roads and fencing."

Asked whether he thought the gypsies had targeted the bank holiday weekend as no-one would be working at the council's offices, Mr Saint added: "We don't know that for certain but the speculation is that they have done this because there is a four day window when officialdom is unlikely to get to them.

"Myself and colleagues have reported it to the local government offices over the weekend but the key person will not be back at their desk until tomorrow morning."

Editorial comment:

A gypsy encampment, is is said, has sprung up just 200 yards from the country home of government minister Tessa Jowell.

What kind of Travellers are those that are bing referred to as “Gypsies”? Anyone asked whether they are of the Romany People?

Until such as time that it is established whether those are Gypsies this is nothing but a Traveller encampment.

Is there actually an inherent problem with so-called journalists in the UK in that they (1) cannot or do not want to use a capital first letter when writing an ethnic group and (2) that they have no ideas as to the fact that “Gypsy”, theoretically, only applies to the Romany? So much for wasted funds and time having them going through how many semester of university... the mind just boggles.

Until such a time that it is properly established that those are Gypsies, as per the definition in the proper dictionaries, they are but Travellers. Time that journalists, councilors and general public learned that Traveller and Gypsyis not simply interchangeable.

So, the field has space for at least 30 caravans. That is not to say that there are 30 caravans pulling on there or are on there. This is scaremongering of the highest order.

While I would never agree with anyone, whether Travellers or Gypsies (Romani) moving onto a piece pf land illegally – I do not care whether or not they have bought it legally and all that jazz – and set up “camp” there or, as in this case, duplicate a “Dale Farm” Traveller village, there is no need going about scaremongering as to what may or may not happen.

The entire article and the statements of the supposed councillor that is being quoted is intended to inflame local and not so local opinion and feeling against the Traveller and Gypsy communities, yet again. How about if we would, if we could, substitute “Gypsy” or “Traveller” for “Black”, “Muslim” or “Jew” and then also use a small first letter too. Whoever would do such a thing would never get away with it and rightly so. But, when it comes to Gypsies or Travellers there is always a free-for-all going around.

As I have said already, I disagree with the actions of those Travellers, whether they be Travellers or Gypsy proper, if they do not have planning permission to do what they are doing. The law applies to us, the Gypsy People in this country, in the same way as it does apply to Travellers, whether Irish or other, or to the settled communities. It is one law for all and I would never ask for it to be different.