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THE NEED TO UPHOLD PLANNING LAWS TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER 'HARDSHIP' CAUSED BY MOVING ON GYPSIES

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A group of gypsies camping on land in Bedfordshire have been ordered off their campsite by a judge. ...
A group of gypsies camping on land in Bedfordshire have been ordered off their campsite by a judge.

After a three-day hearing, deputy high court judge James Goudie issued an injunction against travellers encamped on land known as Woodside, adjacent to the small village of Hatch, near Northill.

The ruling was a stunning victory for mid-Bedfordshire DC and, unless the gipsies now comply with the court order, they could ultimately be jailed for contempt of court.

The judge was told earlier by barrister Stephen Cottle that to force them back on the road would violate their human rights.

Mr Cottle, who acted for some of the travellers including their spokesman Clifford Codona, said there was nowhere else they could settle lawfully.

Describing Mr Codona - who is a lay preacher - as a 'reasonable individual', and the rest of the gypsies he represents as 'sensible people', Mr Cottle told the judge that, ultimately, prison would be the only to force them from the site.

But David Elvin, for the council, said the gypsies had 'flagrantly breached' planning laws, and there had been an increase in crime and nuisance in the area since the encampment grew up.

Mr Elvin made it clear there is no allegation of wrongdoing against the gypsies directly involved in the court case, but said others on the site were clearly misbehaving.

He said the impact of the 'continuing pattern of problems' on local residents was 'unacceptable'.

He described a 'traumatic' police raid in which a helicopter, armed officers and dogs stormed the site in September 2000.

'Although it might be hard on the defendants that they are being penalised for the behaviour of others, the site causes the problems,' Mr Elvin told the judge.

He added that, although Mr Codona had tried to manage the site - for which he deserved 'full credit' - it was 'out of his control'.

Mr Elvin also said the encampment had a negative visual impact on the countryside, and 'swamped' the hamlet of Hatch, which is made up of only 20 houses.

He agreed that moving on the gypsies would cause them 'hardship' - including the disruption to their children's education and health care - but said the impact on the countryside and the need to uphold planning laws was paramount.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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