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Generator X | 09.11.2002 09:50

A background piece from Sunday the 3rd November, written at Woodside.

I've been at Woodside Caravan Park for a day and a bit now. I've not spent much time on a Gypsy site before. But there's an air about the place which is familiar to me. It's the air of a Traveller site, half deserted, half filled with people waiting for their eviction. Lots of families have already left, worried and wary of the treatment they may recieve from Mid Beds Council and it's bailiffs. Some are still her, resisting eviction through the courts, local politics, barricades and stubbornness.

There are twenty-seven plots here where, for the last five years, some seventy-five traveling families have been living, stopping, staying and passing through. The place was bought by the Gypsies to provide a safe zone for their people to rest. They need somewhere from which they can access healthcare, basic utilities, education and work, in a world where essential services are geared towards people who live in houses.

The Government accuses Gypsies of being unwilling to “integrate”, of anti social behaviour, of bringing on crimewaves. Here is one example of the many traveling communities around Britain, who are trying to end the cyle of exclusion -> deprivation -> exclusivity, by compromising, by bowing down to to the law of land ownership and purchasing their own sedentary space.

This is exactly what Tony Blair called for when Labour last came to power. However Mid Beds’ Conservative led Council refuses to meet the community half way. Instead they are using their power to steal Woodside from it’s owners.

The site was bought with planning permission, granted in 1990, for a caravan park, including a permanent residence for the warden, utility block outbuildings and plots for a minimum of 152 tourers (caravans).

The man who applied for permission apparently had friends in the Council and the Planning Department. Since the Gypsies have come, erecting only garden sheds and toilet blocks and asking to keep 54 tourers here, the Council has tried everything it can to revoke permission, from denying that there IS any permission, to lying in court by claiming that the site is on a flood plane (since proven to be false). In fact the seventeen acre parc is zone two development land, with five acres prime for building little brick houses on and, hence, worth £1million per acre! Unsurprisingly, the Council will be hitting the owners of Woodside with such high fines that they can repossess the land in payment. In the end, all the families of Woodside will have bought themselves is a £300,000 eviction.

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