A group of gypsies have vowed to set up illegal camps across a county after losing a four year High Court legal battle to live on their own land.
Six families have been based at the site in Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, since 2018 on land which they own but they don’t have planning permission to live on.
The travellers have been fighting to stay put for the last four-and-half-years after being told by Newark and Sherwood District Council to leave.
They have previously won appeals at London’s High Court but will now be booted from their own patch of land after the decision was overturned last week.
The families say they will have no choice but to pitch up illegal encampments by the roadside after being given 14 months to vacate.
Gemma Lamb, a mum who lives on the site, said they would now be forced to break the law because the authority had not offered them an alternative location.
The Planning Inspectorate ruled the land is too noisy for the gypsy community to live and is also at risk of flooding
Residents now fear their town will be plagued by travellers setting up caravans at parks, schools and supermarkets following the High Court ruling.
The Planning Inspectorate ruled the land is too noisy for the gypsy community to live and is also at risk of flooding.
But Gemma, 35, claims they have no problems with any noise and they had not experienced any flooding in bad weather apart from a ‘few puddles.’
She said: ‘I want to apologise to the people of Newark now because we’ll have to pull on to the side of the road or carparks, if we are forced to leave.
‘The council hasn’t offered us anywhere else to go.
‘The inspectorate has just looked at the previous inspector’s decision and followed suit despite what the High Court said – that the council hasn’t taken our needs into consideration and the fact the council doesn’t have land for us to go.
Newark and Sherwood District Council is now telling the families to leave the site and demanded all outbuildings and other ‘hard surfacing works’ are dismantled
‘The other sites in the area are full and there are no transit sites.’
Gemma says her community is willing to do whatever it takes -whether that be putting up acoustic fencing to shield from the A46 or planting more trees to disguise the site.
She added: ‘The council just doesn’t care.
‘We are human beings too, the only difference being we live in tin boxes and you inside bricks and mortar.
‘I just want to be able to sit down with councillors and have them listen to our story and understand we do have needs.
‘We’ve even asked for temporary consent and they are against that – but when they say no, they don’t offer any alternative.
‘And we’re not moving from Newark, this is our home.’
Newark and Sherwood District Council is now telling the families to leave the site and demanded all outbuildings and other ‘hard surfacing works’ are dismantled.
Gemma says her community is willing to do whatever it takes -whether that be putting up acoustic fencing to shield from the A46 or planting more trees to disguise the site
Gemma said: ‘This is our community, the people around here like us. We’ve never had any complaints or police down here, and the noise simply doesn’t bother us.
‘Us being here shouldn’t be down to the decision of a stranger who doesn’t know anything about us – but they are going to make us homeless.
‘Just because we are Gypsies doesn’t mean you should tar everyone with the same brush.
‘But we will end up being a hindrance to the council if they force us off because they have never supplied anywhere for travellers.
‘We are helping the council with the provision by staying here, it’s six less plots they’ve got to find.
‘They need to listen to our story – we are only human.’
One local resident, who did not want to be named, branded the handling of the situation ‘shambolic’.
The retired taxi driver said: ‘This has been going back and forth for years and now we face illegal traveller camps popping up all over the place.
‘We don’t want caravans parked up at our parks, supermarkets, schools or wherever it may be. We don’t want the disruption and mess it will all bring.
‘It has been a shambles. Nobody seems to know who is in the right or wrong and now these people won’t have a home and will blight the lives of others.’
Another resident Joanna Wright, 40, was among 700 others to sign a petition supporting the decision to let the travellers stay put.
She added: ‘These travellers need somewhere to live and it’s better they remain here then are forced to set up camp by the roadside.
‘I don’t understand the logic in telling them it’s too noisy – that’s for them to decide as they live there.
‘And as for the flood risk, people buy homes next to rivers all of the time and that is their choice.’
David Lloyd, leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: ‘The recent decision by the planning inspectorate comes after previous court, enforcement, and appeal decisions.
‘While the personal circumstances and needs of the occupants presented to the appeal process were heard in full, the Planning Inspectorate concluded that, despite a significant unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches within the district, that the site was inappropriate for reasons of noise, flood risk and that the site is located within an open break between Newark and Winthorpe, where new development is currently heavily restricted.
‘Accordingly the Planning Inspectorate has upheld the enforcement notice requiring that the site occupants vacate the site within 12 months and remove all unauthorised development of the land, including hard surfacing works and outbuildings within 14 months.
‘I do sympathise with all those affected by this final decision.
‘The district council continues to work to identify suitable sites to meet its current and future Gypsy and Traveller needs.
‘Further updates will be presented to the public for consultation in the latter half of this year as to how this need could be met.
‘In the interim I can assure residents of this unauthorised site that we will not be enforcing the requirements of the notice.’
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: ‘There is a risk of flooding from the River Trent to this site and therefore, throughout the appeals process, we maintained our objection on flood risk grounds.’