Adding Insult to Injury; Now Villagers Who Have Protested against an Illegal Travellers' Camp for 586 Days Are Told: YOU Are Facing Eviction

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Dolan

VILLAGERS who have spent 19 months camping day and night to prevent development at an illegal gipsy site now face being evicted themselves - for breaking planning laws.

They could even be forced to abandon their camp before the Romany gipsies are made to leave, they told the Daily Mail yesterday.

The villagers insist their small camp, of a caravan and a few chairs in a builders' yard, is not damaging the green belt - unlike the travellers' site opposite, which they describe as a 'muddy quagmire'.

Residents of Meriden, near Coventry in the West Midlands, set up a vigil the night the gipsies first rolled on to the paddock after buying the site in May last year.

It was a desperate attempt to stop them laying hard core and developing the green belt land without planning permission.

In the 586 days since, around 100 villagers have taken turns to man the camp around the clock, huddling beside a fire in an oil drum to keep warm in often bitter temperatures.

Solihull Council turned down a retrospective planning application from the gipsies, who then appealed. In October, their appeal was thrown out by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who upheld a planning inspector's recommendation.

Despite that decision, the travellers will remain on the site, on a country lane on the edge of the village, until at least March, the earliest date the council could obtain a High Court hearing to apply for an injunction to remove them.

But the council also refused the protesters - under the banner Meriden Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) - retrospective planning permission for their own camp. …