Travellers may face eviction

TRAVELLERS who "flouted" planning laws by setting up camp without permission could face eviction from their controversial home in the heart of the Suffolk countryside.

TRAVELLERS who "flouted" planning laws by setting up camp without permission could face eviction from their controversial home in the heart of the Suffolk countryside.

But if council bosses did pursue such a course action, the process could take up to four years, it has emerged.

Officials are examining their options after the 18 families, who moved onto a parcel of land near Bury St Edmunds last summer, failed to lodge an appeal against a refusal of retrospective planning permission for the site.

The group say they have already spent £100,000 purchasing the land near the A1088 and making it habitable - but last night's news means they could be forced to return the field, between Elmswell and Woolpit, to its original state.

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Planners from Mid Suffolk District Council said the possibility of action which could lead to the eviction of the travellers was also under consideration - but that process could take up to four years.

"We have not received any appeal and we have contacted the planning inspectorate, who confirmed they have not received anything either," said Heather Morgan, planning control manager at the council.

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"There are a potential number of options we are actively considering at the current time.

"These range from taking no further action to issuing a planning contravention notice, issuing an enforcement notice, through to entering into negotiations with the travellers on the site to look at whether they wish to submit a revised or amended application.

"We will look at these options and need to discuss that with the councillors and members of the administration in terms of the appropriate way forward.

"Eviction would be right at the end of the process and is a potential result of one of the routes we could go down, but there would be an awful lot of steps and it could be a number of years away."

Residents in Woolpit, Elmswell and Tostock - all villages which neighbour the site - reacted angrily when the group first moved in last summer, as the community had failed to win planning permission before starting work.

A retrospective application relating to the encampment was then lodged with the council and rejected in November.

Vanessa Malcom, chairman of Tostock Parish Council, said: "It has been quite strange as there were huge anxieties and resentment in the village that they did not apply for planning permission and have flouted planning regulations.

"There has been a feeling that, were any of us to have done this, enforcement might have been firmer and quicker.

"I think a lot of the anxieties which many people in the village had have not come into fruition. I have had no reports of increased crime, something a lot of people were very worried about when the travellers first moved in, and the children have behaved absolutely impeccably at school.

"As neighbours, they appear to have been as good as any other - it is just the case that as they have not applied for permission, they should not be there.

"I think everybody in the village would expect there to be enforcement - my parishioners would be very unhappy if council decides to put up with it."

She added: "You do feel a degree of sympathy with the travellers. They have to find somewhere to live - but it is just the way they have gone about it."

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