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Travellers Lives in Turmoil after eviction

James Hore | 04.03.2004 16:45 | Analysis | Repression | Cambridge | London

A TRAVELLING community evicted from land in Essex have been forced to split up to secure a place to live.

Bailiffs removed about 15 families living on farmland at Little Waltham, near Chelmsford, during violent scenes last month because they did not have planning permission to stay there.
The travellers protested that they had stayed peacefully and were not causing harm but Chelmsford Borough Council spent more than £100,000 to move them on.
The council defended its actions saying the caravans on the field were there unlawfully and had to go.
But yesterday, one of the displaced families said they had lost their life savings buying a plot of land at the site before they were ejected and put on the road.
Lilly McCann said her family had been content at Little Waltham where the children had all been happy at local schools.
She said, “Why do it? We were not doing any harm but living there and they spent a lot of money tearing it down which could have been spent on schools or put into the community.”
Yesterday one of the formers Little Waltham travellers, Lilly McCann, spoke from a short-term travellers site in South Mimms on the M25.
Mrs McCann, who has five children, said the eviction had caused her to become suicidal.
She said: “It has been very distressing as we had to sell our big van as there is not room for it here.
Everyone from the old site has gone their separate ways and the children are unhappy.
“I felt like taking an overdose and ending it all, my whole life has been messed up, if it was not for my kids I would have.
“The children were in school, yes they have started back in another school, but one of them, Jimmy, is struggling and has started wetting the bed.
Mrs McCann said some families were at Potters Bar, but she was not sure where all of her old friends were.
After 13 weeks the McCann family will have to leave their current site again and find somewhere else to live.
Cliff Codona, the chairman of the National Travellers Action Group said many of those from Little Waltham were now desolate, including pregnant women.
He said: “As far as they are concerned, the council, the police and the Government are trash and they will never ever trust them again. They destroyed any trust that day.
“The Gypsy community does not want anything from anybody, they don’t want hand-outs and don’t want the state to keep them.
“We don’t want to be parasites as we are portrayed. I don’t want you to pay for anything for me, please understand that.”
“What is being done to Gypsies in this country is absolutely disgusting, my advice to the Gypsies of Eastern Europe is don’t come here.
“I have a British passport, I was born here in the UK but I have no more rights than a rat in a ditch just because of my way of life that is centuries old to me.
“It was absolutely disgusting - Essex police and the Essex authorities were disgraceful and the Government also for allowing it to happen - there is no way they can justify what happened.
Neil Gulliver, Chelmsford borough council’s executive member for planning and transport, said the authority already had the third highest provision of official traveller sites in Essex.
He has stated: “The problem of finding suitable sites for travellers to live on is a national one and it needs a national solution.”

-Essex County Council provides 11 semi-permanent sites for travellers in the county, catering for about 200 people, although there are none available in the areas of Colchester or Tendring.
Last night, Kay Twitchen, the Essex County Council cabinet member for the environment said the authority was recognised as leading the way on the issue.
She said: “The sites across Essex are very well run but there is a waiting list.
We don’t have a duty to provide sites and there is no more Government so even if we wanted to set up more sites there would not be funding.”

James Hore
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