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NORTHAVON FAMILY SEEK DAMAGES FOR DECREPIT LIVING CONDITIONS

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An ailing Bristol widow has claimed in London's High Court that a Northavon District Council blunder left her and h...
An ailing Bristol widow has claimed in London's High Court that a Northavon District Council blunder left her and her family sleeping in a decrepit, overcrowded caravan. Mrs Dorothy Palmer, 68, is now seeking damages from the council for the 'ordeal' she, her three sons and adopted daughter suffered before they were eventually given council accommodation.

The family resorted to the caravan in October 1992 after being evicted from a farmhouse in Rudgeway in which they had squatted for over a year while Mrs Palmer's husband battled against cancer, the court heard. Mrs Palmer, who faces surgery herself for gallstone problems, claims she should have been given priority treatment from the moment she applied for housing assistance after the death of her husband in February last year.

Instead, she, her sons Roger, 34, Reginald, 33, and Steven, 31, and adopted daughter Mary Cremin were told they were not considered homeless. Northavon District Council's homelessness subcommittee reversed the decision several months later after the family were evicted from Avon County Council-owned land beside Batchfield Lane, near Pucklechurch, Bristol, where they had stationed their caravan. Mr Stephen Cottle, for Mrs Palmer, argued the family ought to be compensated for a council mistake which left them living for several nightmare months in a leaking and overcrowded 22- foot caravan.

'Mrs Palmer and her family were squatting in Ashfield House, Rudgeway, and then trespassing (in their caravan) on Avon County Council land. 'They informed the district council they were squatting and they needed a house because of her husband's health. The caravan was falling to bits.' In her sworn statement, which counsel read out in court, Mrs Palmer described the state of the caravan as 'desperate' and claims she and her family were being harassed by local children.

Northavon District Council argues that the family were offered bed and breakfast accommodation at the time of their eviction from the farmhouse in October 1992 but did not take up the offer. Mr Cottle said it was disputed that that offer was made. If it had been, the family would have taken it, he claimed. The hearing, which is expected to conclude tomorrow, continues.
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