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Bromley gipsies could sue over new site laws

Bromley Gypsy and Traveller Project spokesman James Belsham Revell

Bromley Gypsy and Traveller Project spokesman James Belsham Revell

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Hundreds of families could sue Bromley Council over "vague" new laws about traveller sites, it is feared.

Bromley has one of the largest settled populations of travellers in Europe, with around 1,500 families living in houses around the Orpington and Cray areas.

Many would prefer to live on caravan sites but there are just two in the borough- Star Lane in Orpington which has 22 plots and Old Maidstone Road, of the A20, with 17 plots.

A new planning policy for traveller sites, published by the Department of Communities and Local Government last week, was supposed to simplify legislation about how many caravan plots a council should provide.

It hands power from central government to local authorities, leaving it up to them to decide how many plots are needed.

Bromley Gypsy Traveller Project spokesman James Belsham-Revell said: “It is too vague. The council will say there are enough and my clients will disagree. It is a lawyers’ field day.”

Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr said: “This new policy is flawed and I am concerned by the wording. It says councils should make their own assessments but that means we could be challenged.”

The Department of Communities and Local Government carried out a public consultation from April to August last year but it could not confirm how or where it advertised the process.

Mr Belsham-Revell said he was not aware of it. Just 36 of the 646 responses were from travellers or their representatives while 412 were from councils.

One Orpington gipsy, a mother-of-four, said: “Many travellers who move into houses get depression. We don’t choose this way of life. We are born into it.”

A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman refused to specify how they made travellers aware of the process but added: “We took a number of steps to publicise the consultation to the traveller community.”

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