by Michael Smith
The Westway Gypsy and Traveller site is probably one of the worst official government-owned Gypsy sites in Britain· It lies directly under the motorway flyover and the incidents of lead poisoning of children and infants is the highest of anywhere in the UK. And still this site is allowed to continue there and is even, so it would appear, going to be enlarged.
Overcrowding of Gypsies and travellers living under the Westway has led City Hall to demand west London councils find space for new pitches.
The site, on the border of Shepherd's Bush and North Kensington, is looked after by the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.
It has 20 pitches, each designed for one extended family with two caravans - but there are 35 extended families living on the site.
A report called the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTANA), produced by the Greater London Authority, recommends that 18 new pitches are needed - 12 for Kensington and Chelsea and six in Hammersmith and Fulham.
A council report to the Westway Travellers Site Advisory Group stated that 'the area of wasteland next to the site could offer potential for additional pitches', but added that they 'may wish to consider if there are any other suitable sites for Gypsies and travellers in the borough'.
A spokesman for the Westway Development Trust said: "The wasteland is the size of a couple of desks. Even if you rearranged the whole site, you could maybe get one extra pitch on it, max."
The report added that the boroughs are likely to have weak grounds for objecting to the GTANA's recommendations, as the Westway site already accommodates more families than it was designed for.
The GTANA, published in March this year, states that accommodation needed for Gypsies and travellers in London will need to double to meet their needs.
How this site is, as I indicated already, is even permitted to continue to exist where it is let alone the consideration being given to enlarging it, defies all logic.
The lead poison incidents may have declined – though I do not know as to whether or not – since we no longer use lead in gasoline but the site, in my opinion, is totally unsuitable for human habitational use and has been since its inception.
Lead from gasoline – though no longer, theoretically, present in gas today – is just one thing. The fact that motorcars whiz around just above the people's heads on one of the busiest motorway bridge systems in the UK and the resultant air and noise pollution, is a much larger factor that should have cause this site condemned long ago.
And, if this would be somewhere where Gadje (non-Romany) and other non-Travellers would live, or have to live, the area would have been should down by environmental health long ago. However, as it is but dirty Gyppos and Travellers why should they care?
Hence they will go an enlarge that ghetto rather than actually find some more suitable land for the Gypsies and Travellers to go to or to make it easier for the Gypsies and Travellers to buy their own land where to live.
The Westway site is a definite “out of sight out of mind” place and that's, as we can see, those two London boroughs also would like it to remain. This is more than obvious, methinks.
© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009