tliouk office at
Fri Nov 1 16:50:32 GMT 2002


The Labour Leader in Mid-Bedfordshire County Council has called for a 
Judicial Review of the money the council has spent in pursuing the 
eviction of 27 families including a community of Romany gypsies 
living on a piece of land at Woodside, near Sandy, it emerged last 
night (Thursday 31st October).

Cllr. Paul Griffiths said in last night's Council meeting that 
serious questions need to be asked about whether the Council has 
justified the costs of the High Court Action to enforce the eviction 
of the community at Woodside. The 27 families who own the 17 acre 
site have been denied planning permission to live on their land after 
losing a two-year appeal that was decided upon by the Secretary of 
State, the deputy prime minister John Prescott earlier this year.  
The local Mid Beds. Council succeeded in their application at the 
High Court to have the 27 families evicted from their land by the 1st 
November, with a one-week reprieve allowed to the Codona family to 
allow time for them to await acknowledgement about whether they have 
succeeded in their push for their own Judicial Review into why this 
action should ever have gone to the High Court in the first place. 
The grounds that the Codona's make for this Judicial Review is that 
the Council have pursued a reversal of an original ruling at Public 
Enquiry which they argue went in their favour, through the subsequent 
use of discredited information and a campaign of intimidation and 

The 17 acre site was bought by the community for £300,000 in 1997. 
Planning Permission for the 27 families was denied at the first 
Public Enquiry. However, in his judgement, the judge recommended to 
the council that "18 families should remain living on the site". The 
judge made it clear in summing up that he "would have recommended 
granting planning permission to the other nine families living on the 
site, but was unable to do so because they were not represented at 
the public enquiry". One-year later, families on the site pursued the 
extension of this planning permission for the land to accommodate the 
further nine families. However, the local council - lobbied by one 
local resident from the hamlet of Hatch pursuing an inflammatory 
campaign against the community, succeeded in overturning the previous 
judgement having embarked on a multi-pronged attack on the legitimacy 
of the court's original ruling, including unsubstantiated allegation 
regarding the Romany's sanitation and public health on the site, as 
well as providing information that the area was "prone to flooding", 
evidence which they hadn't deemed important enough to mention at the 
previous public enquiry. However, new evidence has now emerged from 
the Environment Agency in the form of a Flood Risk Analysis Survey 
conducted in June 2002, showing that Woodside is outside the area 
susceptible to flooding and that this land would flood only once 
every 1,000 years.

More details emerged about the people behind the campaign to evict 
the 27 families. At last night's council meeting (Thursday 31st 
Cctober, 2002), a group of Romanies put their case in what could be a 
final attempt to stave off eviction. The case against the Romanies 
was put to the council by a solitary local resident who had been and 
continues to work closely with the council's head of public 
relations, Mark Hustwitt. After the meeting, the local resident from 
the small hamlet of Hatch said: "These Romanies live like animals, 
they have been seen, on at least two occasions, defecating on the 
main road adjoining the property".  "They have no sanitation up 
there. How would you like people like that living near you."  In 
fact, the Romanies have good sanitation, with flush toilets and 
water/electricity points provided for each pitch. The site also has 
roads, electricity, water and telephones. Family plots and caravans 
are neatly fenced off. There is a paddock for the horses and a 
peaceful copse at the back. 
When asked what particular problems his family had from his new 
Romany neighbours, he declined to answer, saying "I don't want to get 
into a slanging match", at which point Mark Hustwitt intervened, 
advising him not to say any more.

Mark Hustwitt, recently appointed the council's head of Public 
Relations, has taken a leading role against the Romanies in this 
whole saga. Rather than acting as an impartial arbiter between the 
council and the press, he is helping co-ordinate a campaign against 
the Romanies. This is particularly worrying since he is chairman of 
the Mid-Beds branch of UNISON, the Trade-Union representing Local 
Government and Public Sector workers. His highly partial role in this 
saga seems entirely at odds with UNISON membership's official support 
for travellers rights. 

The further argument against the community's fight to get planning 
permission was turned down on the grounds that the caravan site "does 
not blend in with the environment". However, in 1990, Planning 
Permission was granted for a caravan touring park with 4 large 
utility buildings, a bungalow and a DIY shop. In fact, this evidence 
may reveal more clearly the deeper agenda underlying why there exists 
a concerted campaign to prevent this community from living at 
Woodside. There is a strong argument for this land being classed as 
development land due to the existence of this planning permission. 
The land is looking at a potential development value of £1.2 million, 
with the prospect of a series of further planning applications for 
further incremental development on the site pushing the value up to a 
possible £10.7 million.

Mark Hustwitt, Mid Beds. Council Head of Public Relations: 01525 
842014 (direct line).
Mid Beds. council UNISON Office, John Phillipson: 01525 842034 
(direct line).

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list