CLERGY in and around Wychavon, in Worcester diocese, have offered to
facilitate conversations between the district council and a group of travellers
who set up camp in the council’s car park. The travellers had earlier been
removed from land they had bought at Eckington. The group moved again on Sunday
after the issue of an enforcement order.
The seven families, all related, bought one-and-a-half acres of agricultural
land last year, but started to lay groundwork on the site before putting in a
planning application. Wychavon District Council sought a High Court order to
prevent them developing the land further. The council offered to trade the land
for a similar site that the families could build on at Wychavon.
An impasse has since developed, as the council refuses to talk to the
travellers while they are parked illegally, but has offered no alternative
legal parking for them. The Revd Peter Thomas, Vicar of Eckington and chairman
of the governors at Defford-cum-Besford First School, said on Tuesday that
local objections to the travellers were on a policy rather than a personal
“People here are sympathetic to them as individuals, but don’t believe
they’ve gone about things in the right way. The Government recognises a chronic
need for 4500 more pitches nationally, but, since the repeal of the Camping and
Caravans Act in 1994, no one is clear whose responsibility it is to provide
these sites,” he said.
Twelve of the travellers’ 14 school-age children have attended the school
regularly in the past ten months, and are reported to have made outstanding
progress; but they are not now attending while on the move. “No parents have
withdrawn children from the school,” said Mr Thomas.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, together with the Bishop’s Council,
voted unanimously last week to urge Wychavon District Council to recognise the
needs and lifestyles of minorities living within its borders; the specific
needs of the children; their parents’ desire for the children’s long-term
education; and the under-provision of sites at local, regional, and national