by Michael Smith
According to reports angry Gohja parents removed their children from a Warwickshire school because they felt threatened after a group of Gypsies set up camp in their village. Will such attitudes never change? Obviously not.
The Travellers who, so it is claimed by them, are Romany-Gypsies, caused uproar when they arrived on the rural site at Darlingscott, near Shipston-on-Stour, next to the home of Olympic minister Tessa Jowell, during the Easter bank holiday.
After a nine-month battle by the local council to evict them, a three-day public enquiry into whether the camp can remain ended at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall recently.
The Gypsy families, who lodged an appeal against eviction, said they bought 16 plots on the site in October 2007 for £20,000 each. But Stratford-on-Avon District Council refused planning permission for the camp and secured an injunction to stop any more people going onto the site and halt building work.
Cllr Christopher Saint said: “There was a lot of local concern when the Gypsies arrived. They felt compromised by the sudden appearance and felt it created a negative impact on the community. Several parents removed children and transferred them to other schools.”
The problem though is that no one of the members of that council, nor any other council, as far as known to this writer, ever makes and attempt to bridge the gap between the Gypsies and the locals and tries to help the settled community understand the Gypsies, especially when it comes to the Romany.
Cllr Michael Hutchins, of Tredington Parish Council, added: “The junior school has had 11 children from the travelling community with potentially another 21 of school age and three pregnant mothers. If they have to take all these children in one go they would not be able to cope.”
The Councillor also raised concerns about pollution, flooding and dangerous driving. So, according to this member of the council it would appear that Gypsies also have a hand in flooding and they are the only ones that may drive dangerously. What pollution is he, one can but ask, be referring to.
As far as the majority of those well-to-do villagers and their elected representatives are concerned Gypsies bring all manner of ills, it would appear, including flooding.
Mind you, we should be used to that by now. In days gone by we were accused of spreading the plagues while ourselves unaffected by it.
Paul Cairnes, barrister for the local authority, said allowing the site to remain would be harmful to the rural area. He said Ernest Wilson, who lodged an appeal against the decision to remove the families resulting in the public inquiry, failed to demonstrate the site would meet a need in the district as identified in the Gypsy Travellers Accommodation Assessment.
The team acting for the Gypsies said they had a right to permanent residency.
Barrister Michael Rudd said: “What do you expect them to do? Move them down a mile then they move back a mile. It becomes a never ending problem. There is a clear and undisputed significant regional need for additional pitch provision. The personal need of the appellants is also recognised. The appellants perhaps unusually in such cases have attempted to engage in consultation and were ultimately forced to move onto the appeal site in a last resort.”
During the enquiry members of the gypsy community told of their desire to settle permanently on the site so they could educate their children.
It would appear that people still regards Gypsies as carrier of diseases and all manner of things for why would they otherwise behave in such a way.
Personally, I cannot see where a Gypsy camp, for lack of a better word, in more or less the middle of the countryside, does any harm in this case. Also, why should the site meet the council's need in the district as identified in the Gypsy Travellers Accommodation Assessment? It was never meant to be a site within that remit. It was one that the Gypsies themselves were buying and building.
Here, once again, the council tries to get such a privately created Gypsy site into its own portfolio. We have seen this done before several times, even to such an extent where the residents of the private site were evicted, the site slightly improved by the council and then the evicted families brought back in as rent-paying residents.
The machinations of politicians, local or otherwise, do not seem to have any end and Gypsies are always an easy target. I just guess that we have to be thankful in this country that we are not being attacked in other ways by the government, such as happens in other places. Great comfort that is – NOT!
© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009