Travellers should be given land, say MPs

TWO Suffolk MPs have today backed the idea councils should be forced to provide land for gypsies and travellers.Chris Mole and David Ruffley, the MPs for Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, respectively, have both agreed it would help end conflicts between members of the travelling and settled communities.

TWO Suffolk MPs have today backed the idea councils should be forced to provide land for gypsies and travellers.

Chris Mole and David Ruffley, the MPs for Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, respectively, have both agreed it would help end conflicts between members of the travelling and settled communities.

The pair speak up just days before Mid Suffolk district council is due to discuss the controversial site at Woolpit - where travellers illegally set up camp in August.

Chris Mole, a member of the committee of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - which published the report - said: "Conflict between gypsies and travellers and the settled community has steadily escalated in recent years. "This is unfortunate. In a supposedly civilised society people ought to be able to tolerate each other.

"The settled community often finds well-paid work for gypsies and travellers, but too often refuses to find space for them to live."

David Ruffley spoke in the House of Commons in September about the current system which allows travellers to build on land before securing planning permission.

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He said: "I wholeheartedly agree with the committee that the Government must provide a statutory framework for traveller's sites.

"In addition we need both political leadership and capital funding from the Government. Without this support, small councils such as Mid Suffolk simply do not have the resources or time to deal effectively with this issue."

This week's report highlighted the fact more than 3,500 travellers and gypsies have no legal place to park their caravans.

Yesterday, settlers at the Cottenham site, Cambridgeshire won permission to challenge a council which is forcing them out of an illegal settlement.

Mid Suffolk district councillors are discussing the Woolpit camp on Monday.

An application has been submitted for two caravans on each of the 18-plot sites.

Standpipes, mains electricity and a tarmac access road were installed by the travellers within days of arriving on the site, believed to be owned by them.

The group admits flouting planning laws but says it is not there to cause trouble.

They say they live and work in the area and are investing heavily in the site.

Ray Melvin, councillor for Woolpit, said: " "The council would certainly be able to designate land if it became law.

"It's difficult to say whether it's right or not but it would certainly be better than how things are arranged at the moment which in my view is incorrect - people doing work then applying for retrospective planning permission.

"Whether it would stop frustrations between settled communities and the travellers depends.

"Many groups are keen to buy their own land and don't appreciate settlements made for them - Romany Way in Bury St Edmunds was demolished by residents twice."

Suffolk currently homes two council-owned sites for travellers and gypsies - West Meadows which has 32 plots near the A14 at Whitehouse, Ipswich, and a 20-plot site at Kessingland.

Both, however, are currently full and have waiting lists of six to ten families. Another site offering 35 plots at Beck Row, near Mildenhall, is run by a private owner.

Do you think we should be providing more places for travellers to live? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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