Gipsy camp plan rejected

By Ted JeoryVILLAGERS have won the first stage of their fight to have two gipsy families removed from land near their homes.But residents living around Turkey Cock Lane, near Stanway, said they expected their campaign to evict the families who have set up camp under an embankment alongside the A12 would continue for months to come.

By Ted Jeory

VILLAGERS have won the first stage of their fight to have two gipsy families removed from land near their homes.

But residents living around Turkey Cock Lane, near Stanway, said they expected their campaign to evict the families who have set up camp under an embankment alongside the A12 would continue for months to come.

Their comments came after members of Colchester Borough Council's planning committee voted unanimously last night to reject a retrospective application from two Romany gipsy families to make a six-pitch settlement in the quiet lane their permanent home.

Council officers had recommended the application should be approved despite strong objections from almost 100 residents.

During an hour-long and emotionally-charged debate at Colchester Town Hall last night, more than 20 villagers applauded a string of councillors, echoing their fears of crime and safety.

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But they also heard one of the applicants, Nathan Lee, break down in tears as he described being treated “like animals”.

Mr Lee and his family moved to the former agricultural land after buying it in July.

They had previously been at a council-run travellers' site in West Meadows, Ipswich, for 15 years, but the families decided to leave there after a number of arguments with non-Romany travellers.

He said: “We are true gipsies. We have been on the road all our lives, but we want to be neighbours in the community.

“I feel very sad inside how we are treated. We are not animals, we're not dogs. We are human beings and we want to be treated like human beings. We try to make improvements to the site, but all we get is complaints.”

However, Copford and West Stanway councillor, Elizabeth Blundell, said: “Some neighbours have already been subjected to threats.

“There is a fear of crime and intimidation and some residents are frightened to walk down the lane. The applicants have made themselves homeless by leaving West Meadows.”

Committee member, Eugene Kraft, added: “I wonder whether officers would have recommended approval if the families were not already there - I just do not like retrospective applications like this.”

A proposal from committee member Ray Gamble to reject the application on the grounds that it was detrimental to local amenities and there was insufficient information about flood risk and sewerage disposal was carried unanimously.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lee said: “My heart is just too low to say anything on this at the moment.”

But Ann Stuchfield, of Turkey Cock Lane, said: “We're delighted, but this is just the first step because no doubt there'll be an appeal.”

All previous applications for development at the site, dating back to the 1970s, have also been refused.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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