Monday, January 17, 2011


 The following are several articles on the siege of the Gypsy/Travelers' camp in Meriden England.

I previously posted blogs on the escalating situation in Meriden which just highlights the hostility toward the permanent camps for Gypsies throughout the United Kingdom. 

After the two articles, I've included a letter from a representative from the UNITED KINGDOM GYPSY WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION.

Villagers gather in Meriden to debate illegal travellers' camps

By Cara Simpson

Jan 17 2011

Meriden RAID hosted a visit from campaigners around the country at the Heart of England Social Club.VILLAGERS from across the country on Meriden to debate how to lobby the government over illegal travellers’ camps.

Campaigners from far and wide concerned by the illegal development of travellers sites in their area gathered for a conference – the first of its kind in the country – on Saturday to pressurise the government into changing legislation.

Some 75 delegates from rural areas, including Warwickshire residents from Meriden, Barnacle and Beausale, joined forces with villagers from Blackpool, Cheshire and Gloucestershire to compile a series of recommendations for the government.

The conference was also attended by the environment secretary Caroline Spelman and Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire.

In Meriden, a round-the-clock demonstration has been staged for more than six months against a travellers’ camp.

Meriden resident David McGrath, who is chair of Raid (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) said: “This national conference brings villagers from across the country who are suffering unethical and inappropriate developments with no respect for the views of local people.

“These developments are designed to steal a march through the planning process and results in the destruction of greenbelt and wildlife.”

Meriden RAID hosted a visit from campaigners around the country at the Heart of England Social Club.He added that there were three main recommendations – that the government removes guidelines allowing travellers to live on greenbelt land, they create more authorised travellers sites and introduce stricter penalties for breaking planning laws.

Dan Essex, of Barnacle where villagers complain there are too many travellers’ camps, said: “We understand gipsies need somewhere to live but It’s not about preferential treatment, it’s about equality. This is a planning issue pure and simple.”

The event at the Heart of England Social Club in Meriden attracted a large police presence as it was anticipated there would be a counter protest from local travellers.

Only one member of the local traveller community – Noah Burton – turned up to demand entrance to the conference.
He said: “Nothing has ever been resolved behind closed doors. Why not allow us to have our say and input?” It’s just the usual story, everyone can come unless you are a gipsy.

“We are an outcast and everyone in the community can attend except us. How do you think we feel about that? I feel very angry about it – it’s blatant racism and bullying.”

Nikki Sinclaire, Midlands MEP, said: “I would be happy to meet with the travellers after the conference.”

Read More
Opposing illegal traveller sites isn't racist, Minister tells gipsies' leader

By Simon Walters

16th January 2011

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman rejected claims of ‘gipsy racism’ yesterday after pledging to take tough new action against illegal traveller sites.

Ms Spelman clashed with a travellers’ leader as she defended villagers in her Midlands constituency who have staged a round-the-clock demonstration for more than six months against an encampment on greenbelt land.

Travellers’ leader Jake Bowers called the protesters ‘racists’ and compared Ms Spelman’s approach to the ‘Deep South’ of America, where slavery flourished until the Civil War.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman defended new laws to get rid of unlawful traveller camps

Defiant Ms Spelman defended new laws to get rid of unlawful traveller camps, saying: ‘The travelling community should indeed be travelling.’

Travellers' leader Jake Bowers compared Ms Spelman's approach to the 'Deep South' of America, where slavery flourished until the Civil War

The confrontation on Radio 4’s Today programme came after Mr Bowers, editor of the Travellers’ Times magazine, claimed the protest in Ms Spelman’s Meriden constituency in Warwickshire had nothing to do with whether the camp was legal.

‘When the mask slips, the real reason they are there is because there are gipsies in their village and they don’t like it,’ he said. He added the racism charge would be given legal weight as a result of ‘gipsies and Irish travellers’ being included as an ethnic minority for the first time in the ten-year census due on March 27.

Mr Bowers taunted Ms Spelman: ‘Come on Caroline, this is more Deep South than Middle England.’

Ms Spelman said: ‘I don’t think it is an issue of racism. There is an issue with planning law.’

The camp was established after a travellers’ group exploited council workers being off over a Bank Holiday weekend to set up a permanent site without planning permission.

Villagers have been blockading an illegal settlement to prevent travellers getting building materials on to it.

Read more:


17th January 2011


Dear Mrs. Spelman,

I write further to both my telephone call to your Parliamentary Office on the Afternoon of Friday 14th January 2011 and the “Conference” that you attended as speaker at the Heart of England Social Club on Saturday 15th January 2011.

During my telephone conversation with a member of your staff I made enquiry as to the nature of this conference and I was informed quite clearly and categorically that the conference was for “people from various locations across the country who had problems with Travellers”. The staff member was asked if you were available but stated that you were not I asked her to pass on to you the fact that this “conference” was one that was not open to certain members of the community (the Gypsy Community), and that it was felt that this exclusion amounted to an act of racism. I was told that you were unaware of this exclusion. I asked the staff member Liz if you would telephone me in regard to this exclusion and I am still awaiting your call, although to be fair Liz did tell me that it would be unlikely that you would speak with me on this matter.

We feel in no doubt at all that you were fully aware that attendance at this conference was highly censured to ensure that only like minded individuals might attend. Application for a place at the “conference” had to be made via the Meriden Raid website, and by way of outlining the spirit of this “conference” Mr. Noah Burton was turned away at the door.

Mrs. Spelman; any right minded person could only draw the conclusion that this gathering would more accurately be described as a “Rally” and was by no means a conference. This gathering was attended by people from across the country who had “problems with Travellers”, while we will concede that these might well be issues surrounding planning, the true objections are ones surrounding “who” is applying for planning consent. The Green belt being nothing more than a convenient screen that is being used to mask and give respectability to a blatant and shameful ongoing display of racism from a certain sector of the community with whom you have no conscience at all about encouraging. This dubious gathering at which you spoke, it’s carefully selected and censured attendee’s bears all the hallmarks of a lynch mob, and brings with it chilling echoes from a not too distant past from which we seem to be hoping in vain that mankind had learnt from.

During an interview with Jake Bowers that was broadcast on BBC radio 4 you made certain comments, and we would like to take issue with you in regard to the same. Firstly it is untrue that you have never been asked to meet with the residents on the site on Eaves Green Lane. Both I and UKAGW’s Inclusion Officer Rachel Francis Ingham have written to you to on several occasions, we have also written to Mr. Bob Neil and Mr. Eric Pickles, who have also declined to meet with us. It is also untrue that you have been on the site on a number of occasions and spoken to the site resident’s, indeed the residents enquired who the lady was that their representatives had been speaking to. They have never made your acquaintance.

In June 2010 you accompanied Mr. Bob Neil when he visited the protesters at Eaves Green Lane. I personally contacted Mr. Neil’s Ministerial Office and was told that Mr. Neil was attending on your invitation and that this visit was a “fact finding” visit. Heartfelt requests from me and Rachel Francis Ingham for Mr. Neil to walk the few short yards onto the site and meet the residents were repeatedly refused. On the day of Mr. Neil’s visit Rachel Francis Ingham and myself were joined on the site by Maggie Smith Bendell from the Romany Gypsy Advisory Group Somerset, we continued our appeals to Mr. Neil who under pressure from ourselves and now in full view of the media had a last minute change of heart and visited the Burton family in the trailer and home of Mrs. Jayne Burton. Gathered there were Mrs. Burton and her extended family of son’s, daughters in law and grandchildren, where Mr. Neil was received in a warm and friendly manner. Interestingly you chose not to meet with the Burton family instead choosing to remain outside in the rain speaking to us, rather than meet your constituents on the site.

It had been our belief that having visited the family himself Mr. Neil might take a different view, instead he returned to the fold of the protesters and very clearly informed them that they “should not have that on their doorstep”.

In the early days of this protest the protesters made their true feelings known with racist comments abut Gypsies in local papers together with terrifying threats made towards the Burton family via facebook.

During this same interview with Mr. Bowers you claimed this protest and your support of the same was nothing to do with racism, but was in fact to do with “fairness”. Where Mrs. Spelman is the “fairness” in a meeting held behind firmly closed doors, the purpose of which is set against a certain section of society, and made even more ugly and distasteful by the very fact that, that section of society is an ethnic minority, and the victims of this sustained racist campaign are also your own constituents’.

UKAGW have said throughout that Mr. McGrath and Co should return to their homes and allow the planning process to take its course. It is very clear to us that you are not only allowing yourself to be involved in and used by this group to attempt to bring undue pressure to bear on the local planning officers but also to add enhancement to Mr. McGraths business interests, as he is undoubtedly using this unfortunate situation to further and better those interests.

It is astounding that whilst so many people can see behind the façade to the true reason behind this campaign, you and your colleagues appear blindly oblivious to the reality. There are, as they say “none so blind ……. “

Once again we request that if “fairness” is your objective that you should meet with us and the residents of Eaves Green Lane and that this meeting should be one attended by Mr. Neil and Mr. Pickles by way of taking a “fair and balanced approach”, after all a great deal of time and goodwill has been extended to Mr. McGrath and the protesters. We look forward to your response to the points rose with you.

Yours sincerely

Shay Clipson


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