‘I just want to be left alone’ says traveller

12/5/09- Traveller's site, Telham Lane near Battle.  'Photo by Steve Hunnisett
12/5/09- Traveller's site, Telham Lane near Battle. 'Photo by Steve Hunnisett
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A GYPSY from Battle says she “just wants to be left alone” as the council’s quest to find new pitches for travellers in Rother continues.

Last month Rother Council revealed a shortlist of potential sites, including Beeches Brook in Telham Lane.

Linda Smith set up home on the site in 2007, but risked being ejected following a series of planning breaches.

Following several appeals, in August last year Linda was granted permission to remain on the site for another three years to allow Rother to continue its search for permanent traveller sites.

Linda now faces an anxious wait to find out if she can stay on the site permanently.

Linda lived in Telham before moving to the then newly-opened traveller site in Robertsbridge.

But in recent years, increased overcrowding led to tensions and Linda felt she had no choice but to move.

She said: “We were in a dire situation and had to get out of Robertsbridge. The best thing we ever did was to move from there. It stopped the arguments in the family and the grievances have gone in the background.”

Linda bought the land in Battle with the help of her family and set about building her home on the site.

She claims early planning breaches were down to ignorance of the law, and says nothing has been added to the site in the past three years.

She said: “When I came down here, I hold my hands up because I did not know about planning issues. I have had a few run-ins with Rother Council but because I have been listening to what they have said, these last few years there’s nothing been done.”

When she first moved in, Linda paid to have a Flood Risk Assessment carried out on the site, at the request of Rother.

She denied claims her fields had recently flooded, saying: “My fields were no more underwater then anywhere else.”

Linda says if she is allowed to remain on the site permanently, it would cost Rother less money than building a new site from scratch.

She said: “This has been done without any cost to the taxpayer. If Rother was going to build a new site up the road, they would have to pay to have utility units and all sorts of other things. It would cost them thousands.”

She added: “I pay my TV licence, I pay my water rates -there’s no skiving off, I pay for everything. If we lived in a house we would be better off financially because it’s more expensive living down here. But it’s our way of life and we do not know any different.”

Linda said she hopes Rother will allow her to stay on the site, but says she would not recommend anyone take a similar course of action.

She said: “If any traveller asked us if it’s good idea, I would say do not even go there.

“It’s a headache, worry, stressful - you’re better to let the council build you a site.”

She added: “I’m just hoping it will go through.

“I just want to be left alone.”