Opinion: Problems At Gypsy & Traveller Site Do Need Attention + Comment form Cllr Liz Hogger

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effingham-residents-associationBy Chris Dick

Chairman of the Effingham Residents’ Association

Following Martin Giles’ interview with Monika Juneja, I thought it might be beneficial to consider what the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) meeting Ms Juneja attended was about.

Presumably, putting aside the politics,  the meeting at Millmead was to discuss why has it taken over five years for GBC to achieve nothing for the Travellers, Gypsies and others living at Home Farm, Effingham, some of whom live without running water, proper toilet and washing facilities and BT land line. The latter is, of course, crucial for kids of school age these days, who need internet access.

Opinion Logo 2Some may dismiss this archaic state of affairs as the norm but these Gypsy & Traveller families have been a feature of Effingham’s history for over 100 years; they settled in the village just after the Second World War. Their conditions have not improved much since then and GBC have a duty to ensure adequate living standards for all residents.

It is important to note that these families are already integrated into our community, their children attend our local schools, the older ones work locally. They are represented on Effingham Parish Council and attend a local liaison committee that was formed five years ago to update their pitches.

It was agreed, years ago, to add six pitches for local traveller families under the planning rules referred to as a ‘Rural Exception Site’. But GBC then removed their member of staff who was dealing with the improvements and changed direction. Briefly then:

  • The most senior members of GBC took a keen interest in producing results but the project to increase the number of pitches and improve living conditions hit a brick wall.

  • The highways department at Surrey County Council were concerned about additional traffic exiting onto the A246 with possible solutions seemingly lost in bureaucracy.

  • Confusion arose as to who owned which pieces of land, so GBC employed yet another consultant to look into ownership.

  • Two gypsy travellers became Gypsy & Traveller ambassadors for their community.

So why does nothing happen? It appears that no officer at GBC has actually been tasked with the necessary authority and motivation to make it happen.

The solution could be simple: employ one well-motivated council officer with the clout and backing from the Executive Committee at GBC to do the job.

Or do we have to wait another five years for nothing to happen?

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The Gypsy and Traveller ambassadors,. On the left, Kelly King and on the right is Laura Gold. In the centre is parish councillor James Nichols. The photo was taken at the Millmead council offices in Nov 2013.

One Response to Opinion: Problems At Gypsy & Traveller Site Do Need Attention

  1. Liz Hogger  

    July 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Chris Dick is right to highlight that the need for action to improve the living conditions of some of our Traveller community is the important issue here.

    Home Farm is not a designated “Traveller Site”, it’s an area of green belt land around Calvert and Chester Roads where there are privately-owned residential plots, many of which, but not all, are owned and occupied by Gypsies or Travellers. Some plots have mobile homes and some brick-built properties.

    It is not a “Traveller site” in planning terms either – anyone of any ethnicity could buy one of the plots and live there quite legitimately.

    It is a good example of Travellers and non-Travellers living in harmony as one community. Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) involvement comes from the fact that the council owns the road and the intervening fields, and has a responsibility for the upkeep of the area.

    GBC, of course, also has a responsibility to find pitches for Travellers in need of decent homes, and the Home Farm land owned by the council provides an opportunity to provide that help to local Traveller families by providing some rural exception pitches, as Chris Dick has explained.

    Liz Hogger is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham.

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