Residents’ bid to ban Glastonbury travellers blocked ... by own council!
WHEN travellers moved on to an historic plot of Somerset countryside, councillors promised swift action to remove them.
That was the summer of 2008. Astonishingly, they are still there, in a shanty village over four acres with more than 60 motorhomes, caravans and converted trucks.
Residents living in cottages near the site, on the outskirts of Glastonbury, have made countless complaints about dogs, bonfires, foul odours and music blaring at all hours.
They are also concerned about a queue of travellers waiting to join the camp, which has just two portable loos for sanitation.
The angry locals’ cause has been taken up by Mendip District Council, which owns the land by an historic 19th century tannery. Officials have applied for an eviction order.
However, this is being thwarted by Glastonbury Town Council, which falls within the district council area. The town council is supporting the travellers’ right to stay – against the wishes of many of its own residents.
Led by mayor Emma George of the Green Party, the town council claims the travellers have become an integral part of the community.
Miss George is even acting as the travellers’ McKenzie friend – a legal term for an individual who gives guidance to a plaintiff during court proceedings.
The travellers will cite Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom from state interference in private life, when the case is heard next month. But one neighbour, who
‘The issue has split the community’
asked not to be named, said: ‘This is supposed to be about human rights – but who is taking into account our rights?
‘We are having to put up with bonfires, dogs barking and loud music on a regular basis.
‘ The council have offered them alternative sites, but they don’t want to move.’
When the travellers arrived in 2008, the district and county councils promised swift action to have them removed.
However, the negotiations dragged on and eventually the site became a ‘tolerated’ settle- ment, and the travellers were allowed to stay. Dogs roam freely around the camp, which has become a dumping ground for dilapidated cars.
Last March, the district council served an eviction notice so it could repossess the land, but the travellers vowed to fight it. Yeovil County Court, which deals with local land disputes, subsequently ruled that infringement of human rights was an arguable defence, allowing the case to go ahead.
John Brunsdon, a Tory district councillor, said: ‘The issue has split the community. But there are better sites for these people to live so we can develop this site for everyone’s benefit.
‘The travellers were allowed to remain there and it became a permissive site, but it was never really suitable for their needs.
‘We offered other sites, but none were deemed acceptable.
‘Because of the proximity of a sewage farm and the smell it would cause, and coupled with the legacy of tanning, [the current site] was deemed unsuitable as a place for people to live.
‘If it’s unsuitable for humans to live there then these travellers should be moved on.’
Miss George did not respond to a request for comment.
Unsightly: The muddy site near Glastonbury is cluttered with caravans and converted trucks