Letter: Scourge of illegal gypsy camps

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The Independent Online
Sir: There has been a misunderstanding in your letters column and elsewhere about the consultation paper which Sir George Young, Minister for Housing and Planning, recently launched regarding the planning aspects of gypsy camps.

There is no intention whatsoever to suppress the true Romany life in any way. In a free democracy, such as ours, I believe that we have a fundamental right to live our lives in whichever way we think fit, whether that be in a house or in a caravan on the road. However, this can only be so long as our way of life does not adversely affect the way of others, and also so long as we do not expect the taxpayer to foot the bill.

True Romanies who wish to continue their nomadic lives will be able to do so, but I see no reason why large sums of taxpayers' money should be spent encouraging them to do this.

When the 1966 Caravan Sites Act was introduced, there were 4,500 gypsy caravans on the road. Since the Act, pounds 56m of government funds has been used to provide 9,000 sites - twice the theoretical number required. Yet the number of illegally parked gypsy caravans remains at about 4,500. The unavoidable conclusion is simply that the Government providing large sums of money has not necessarily led to the satisfactory siting of gypsy caravans.

Illegal camping is a scourge. It is detrimental to those who live nearby and invariably leaves behind rubbish and pollution. This is why an effective means of preventing it has to be found and put into action.

The consultation paper is about placing travellers on the same footing as other citizens. I have no doubt that those who wish to will continue with their Romany way of life, but it must be on the same basis as, and also be compatible with, the less nomadic way of life that most people lead.

Yours faithfully,

ANGELA KNIGHT

Member for Erewash (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

1 September

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