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Troubled gypsy site rescued by generous goverment payout

PUBLISHED: 16:59 09 April 2008 | UPDATED: 11:11 12 August 2010

08.04.08
Star Lane caravan site, St Mary Cray
The site is getting £470,000 for refurbishment
Mum Lucy Smith with her boys Eli 9yrs and Tyler 7yrs
Picture: Jamie Gray
Mobile:07834 965462
Email: jamie@jamiegray.com

08.04.08 Star Lane caravan site, St Mary Cray The site is getting £470,000 for refurbishment Mum Lucy Smith with her boys Eli 9yrs and Tyler 7yrs Picture: Jamie Gray Mobile:07834 965462 Email: jamie@jamiegray.com

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TRAVELLERS are delighted they have finally received a grant to improve facilities on two sites after being neglected for years. Bromley council were succesful in their bid for government money, receiving £468,451 for Star Lane caravan site in St Mary

TRAVELLERS are delighted they have finally received a grant to improve facilities on two sites after being "neglected" for years.

Bromley council were succesful in their bid for government money, receiving £468,451 for Star Lane caravan site in St Mary Cray and £369,869 for Old Maidstone Road, Sidcup.

The Star Lane site had no electricity for three years following of an arson attack. Power was finally restored in October last year.

Work is expected to begin in June and will include the repair and extension of the two sites with refurbishment of amenity facilities, repairs to broken fences, site clearance

and traffic calming.

Artist and traveller, Lucy Smith, 44, of Star Lane, said: "We're obviously absolutely delighted and thrilled that we have finally got some money and that the funds have been awarded our way.

"It was terrible when we were without electricity for so long. It was really depressing, we've definitely been overlooked and I'm glad the site is being rescued."

Mother-of-four, Mrs Smith, believes work has been slow because contractors are afraid to enter traveller sites.

She said: "They seem frightened to come in, but it's just their imagination running away with them, thinking that they might have things stolen and so on. People don't understand travellers, it's a taboo. They tar everyone with the same brush thinking we're lary and want something for nothing.

"This is a lovely situated site and there is huge potential here. There are very few problems. It's quite safe and I let my children play around here. We have been neglected but we're excited for the future and getting the site back to how it should be."

Mrs Smith dismissed claims that gypsy travellers contribute nothing to the local economy.

She said: "Many travellers own their own property and pay ground rates. We send our children to schools and work as well."

A condition of the grant, which comes from the Department for Communities and Local Government, is that Bromley council provide 25 per cent of the money which amounts to £150,000.

Project worker at the Bromley Gypsy Traveller Project, James Bellsham-Revell, is also delighted with the payout.

He said: "It's great that at last they've been given some money, it's wonderful but it's taken a long time. It's vital that there is investment in infrastructure on traveller sites and that plans are progressive. The sites have not been a priority for the government.

"There is a deep-seated prejudice against gypsies but many people are completely ignorant. There is no way people would say the same things they do about black people or Asian people as they do about gypsies.

"But travellers and gypsies are recognised as a distinct group in the Race Relations Act 1976 and it's about time the general public did also.

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