‘Let travellers be a part of community’
ATRAVELLERS charity boss has said groups who apply for land want to be part of the community and should be given a chance.
Win Lawlor, deputy director of Irish Community Care Merseyside (ICCM), spoke out in defence of travellers after a planning application to set up a permanent site near Maghull in Sefton received thousands of objections.
Ms Lawlor acts as the “strategic business lead” for Irish travellers and Gypsies for ICC, a charity which responds to the needs of Irish and Irish traveller communities.
She urged people not to make “knee-jerk reactions” against travellers, based on fear and what they have seen in the media.
Ms Lawlor said: “For Gypsy travellers it’s actually very brave to put in a planning application. They know it is going to incite a lot of racial hatred, fear and backlash, but they make the application anyway.
“This is their way of saying ‘we want to live our way in a way that is culturally appropriate for us, but be a part of this community’, and then they get slapped in the face for it.” She added that Romany Gypsy travellers were an ethnic group of people who should be treated with equality as any other minority group would.
Ms Lawlor said: “If you have one bad experience with a traveller it’s not fair to lump them all together and it’s not legal either. They are an ethnic minority group, and local authorities have to look at the living needs for all.
“If you want to buy a house, no one tells you you are not fit to live there. You get the house before you even meet your neighbours.
“But this is what travellers have to go through because they want to live in a way that is culturally appropriate for them. People should give them a chance.”
Her comments came after a petition against a planning application to set up a permanent site for travellers near Maghull gathered more than 2,000 objections.
The application is to convert land south of Spurriers Lane in Melling from a pony paddock into six pitches, inclusive of six static caravans, six touring caravans and six amenity blocks.
It has sparked a heated debate online, with residents saying it would “downgrade” the character of the “peaceful” village neighbourhood.
However, not all residents are against the proposals, with some classing opposition to the plans as a form of “hate crime”.
A design and access planning document says the families are all “Romany Gypsy travellers by birth, culture and decent, having been brought up in the traditional way of life and satisfy the definition of a Gypsy and traveller”.
It says they applied for permanent planning permission because a number of the family members were living with illhealth and children needed access to regular schooling.