Council defends travellers eviction bid

By James MortlockUNDER-fire council bosses have defended their decision to try to have a group of travellers evicted from their own land.The families, who have won their battle to stay on the land in Beck Row, near Mildenhall, criticised Forest Heath District Council for wasting money on the lengthy battle to have the group thrown off the site.

By James Mortlock

UNDER-fire council bosses have defended their decision to try to have a group of travellers evicted from their own land.

The families, who have won their battle to stay on the land in Beck Row, near Mildenhall, criticised Forest Heath District Council for wasting money on the lengthy battle to have the group thrown off the site.

Despite the cost, Roger Crane, chairman of the council's planning committee, defended the authority's decision to refuse planning permission and the subsequent appeal process.

He was unable to put a figure on the cost of the three-year dispute, but said the council had acted “entirely” correctly.

“It has now come down to this appeal and the appeal inspector deemed it fair enough and the travellers were given temporary permission to remain at the site for two years,” said Mr Crane.

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“As far as I'm concerned it was a fair process and there was nothing untoward about it.”

The families bought the land at Willow Park in 2000 and have been granted temporary permission to remain at the site for two years. They are now confident they will eventually win permanent approval.

The battle over the land began after the travellers installed electricity and water pipelines on the site.

After completing the work, they were informed by Forest Heath District Council that planning conditions meant the plot could only be used for agricultural purposes.

The travellers lodged several retrospective planning applications asking for permission to change the use of their land, but those were rejected and enforcement notices were issued ordering the group to leave.

An initial appeal was turned down and the issue was then called in by the Environment Secretary, who also turned the bid down. But the travellers again appealed and inspectors have found in their favour.

Sheila Lamb, who lives at the site with her family, said: “I did not want to build my hopes up too much, but I'm really pleased about this.

“The children are all settled at school and it would have been really bad to uproot them.

“We have got the right result and the fight has been worth it in the end. We all think that if the authorities are giving us two years, they must be considering granting permanent permission and we are looking at this as a trial period.

“But the money the council has wasted on this could have gone to better causes, such as schools, which would have made the area better for everybody.”

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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