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‘We’ll do whatever it takes to stay’ say travellers after camping and refusing to leave picturesque land near M25

A FAMILY of Show People claim they’ll “do whatever it takes to stay” where they are living on green belt land as they say all Traveller sites are “overcrowded”.

John Bailey has applied to alter the use of land on the corner of Clement Street and Church Road in Sutton-at-Hone in Kent, in a bid to create a permanent site for his family to pitch on.

Not known, clear with picture deskJohn Bailey and his family have had their application to change the use of the land turned down by the counci[/caption]

Not known, clear with picture deskThe family pitched up on their land last year which was being used as paddocks[/caption]

The green space is close to the M25 and currently accommodates around 25 adults and 12 children.

They have owned it for three years and have used it for paddocks.

An application was submitted to Dartford council in November.

The proposal was to create seven permanent plots for travelling Show People which included storage, washing and testing areas for equipment, as well as access and landscaping.

We have got to do whatever it takes as we need somewhere to live. We are a family and we do not want to break the rules

John Bailey

On March 14 though the plans were rejected by the planning committee, saying it was an “inappropriate development” of the metropolitan green belt.

Mr Bailey told KentOnline: “We are not building blocks of flats, we just want to park up, live quietly and fit in with people.

“We have got to do whatever it takes as we need somewhere to live. We are a family and we do not want to break the rules.

“We cannot park up on the side of the road, we need land for our equipment. We are just parking our homes.

“We understand the land is in the green belt but there have been cases where it has been overturned for other communities.

“Show People do not have the same rights.”

Show People are not seen as an ethnic group as they do not descend from Romany, Roma or Irish Travellers and are known as Cultural Travellers.

The Traveller Movement (TM), which tackles discrimination and promotes equality, say they are a cultural minority with their identity being linked to their family business.

Show People are those who organise and run fairs, circuses and shows during the summer months and then will settle during the winter in order to prepare for the following season.

The Bailey family have been running funfairs in Kent for around 100 years.

Show People often need much larger spaces than other Travellers as they need somewhere to store their equipment such as fair rides and kiosks.

Mr Bailey says he put in the planning application because the existing Traveller sites in the county can’t accommodate them.

COUNCIL REJECTED APPLICATION

Council officers in their report said the local authority had “an adequate supply of plots” and did not consider there to be “an unmet need [of sites] for travelling Show People within Dartford”.

The family said in their access statement they had been living on a site in South Ockendon but it was “severely overcrowded” and “cramped” and had moved onto their land in Sutton-at-Hone in order to improve their living conditions in March last year.

Council officials though and slapped an injunction order on them, saying it was a breach of planning controls, to prevent any further development happening.

An enforcement notice was then issued by the local authority which came into effect in December, requiring the caravans and fairground equipment to be removed within nine months.

APPEAL

Mr Bailey has appealed the decision with an inquiry to take place in May.

He said: “We had to do this. It might not have been the correct thing to do but we needed somewhere to live.

“We will go anywhere but there are no sites for us and the ones there are, are all overcrowded. If there were more sites it would be ideal.”

In the submitted design and access statement it states the applicant accepted the change of use would be “an inappropriate form of development in the green belt”, but would not result in any “other harm”, such as noise, traffic, or light.

It also adds the application could be considered as having “very special circumstances” including the unmet need of the group and a lack of alternative land and so should be considered for approval even though it was on green belt land.

The statement said: “It is very difficult to find sites suitable and available for Gypsies, Travellers and travelling Show People outside the green belt in Dartford as evident by the fact that all Traveller and travelling Show People’s sites within the borough are located in the green belt.

“If the council considers there to be justification for the allocation of sites in the green belt for Travellers, the same should quite clearly be the case for travelling Showmen.”

However, council officials didn’t think the application met the requirements of being a “very special circumstance” and recommended it for refusal.

Neighbours lodged six objections to the application, raising concerns about noise pollution, increased traffic and use of the green belt land.

The application was also backed by 14 letters of support, which said the family “do good work for the community”, were a “positive addition” to the local area and are charitable with members once being part of Dartford Lions.

The family are due to appeal the councillors’ decision to refuse planning permission.

The Sun Online has contacted Dartford Council for comment.

Not known, clear with picture deskThe family’s land is on green belt in Kent close to the M25[/caption]

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