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Subject: SchNEWS 360, Friday 21st June, 2002
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 23:58:01 +0100

Woodside Caravan Park - Bedfordshire - June 2002

In 1997, 27 Gypsy families clubbed together to buy Woodside, a 17-acre touring caravan park with full planning permission. But when the Gypsies moved on to the park, Mid-Bedfordshire council claimed they did not have permission for permanent occupation and issued enforcement notices. In July last year the council set aside 230,000 to finance clearance of the community. On Monday (24), the council is going to the high court to be allowed to carry out its enforcement notices, forcing the community back on the road.

The Woodside caravan park is unlike any of the 325 council Gypsy sites in this country. It isn't surrounded by barbed wire fences designed to keep the inhabitants in. It hasn't even been built near a sewage works or any other industrial facility. It looks, in fact, more like a modern hamlet than a ghetto, except that the homes are on wheels rather than stone foundations.

At the centre of the community is a large green where children play in safety. Yet the council wants the site removed on the grounds that it is having an adverse impact on the environment. The Gypsies say the council is using an environmental smokescreen to hide their bigotry.

"They say we are out of character with the area, but how can we be when we've always been here?" says Woodside spokesman and National Traveller Action Group chairman Clifford Codona, who, like many Gypsies, once worked as a seasonal agricultural labourer. "They don't need us any more, so they want to expel us. They can't stand the fact that, for the first time ever, Gypsies have their own village green!"

Current government policy recommends that travellers should house themselves on their own land, yet Gypsy families who attempt to do so are often denied planning permission. While over 80% of planning applications from settled people are granted consent more than 90% of applications from Gypsies are refused.

If you believe it's time to stop shoving British Gypsies from pillar to post, they need your help to turn away the bailiffs. Come the night before the expected eviction attempt from Monday onwards. Enjoy a midsummer night of Gypsy singsong around the fires - and be ready to protest when the council and private contractors come. There's plenty of room for tents and caravans. Woodside is in the village of Hatch near Sandy, Bedfordshire just minutes off the A1.

for directions -

If you can't get to the site send an email to head of Mid Beds Council urging him to reconsider his intention to evict the community of Gypsies at Woodside Caravan Park, Sandy, Bedfordshire.

For more information on how British Gypsy sites policy has made many homeless, read "No Room to Move" -,4273,4427029,00.html

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