diggers350 tony at
Thu Nov 21 09:34:04 GMT 2002

>From Bristol's Evening Post

11:00 - 20 November 2002 
An irish traveller has won an important human rights case in the High 
Court over the definition of a "gypsy".

In a decision with important implications for planning law, diabetic 
mother-of-four Kathleen O'Connor, of Keynsham, won a declaration that 
it was not necessary to be travelling from place to place to be 
regarded as a gypsy.

A judge ruled that Mrs O'Connor, who has never lived in a house, did 
not lose her gypsy status because her poor health and the need to 
educate her children had forced her for the time being to settle in 
one place.

Mr Justice Field, sitting in London, ruled: "The court has recognised 
that the European Convention on Human Rights requires the court to 
show respect for the gypsy way of life by acknowledging a person's 
ethnicity in planning law."

The case arose after Mrs O'Connor applied in July 2000 for planning 
permission to develop greenbelt land at Redlynch Lane, Queen 
Charlton, Keynsham, as a residential gypsy caravan site.

Bath & North East Somerset District Council refused permission, and 
Mrs O'Connor and her husband appealed to an Environment Department 
planning inspector. 

The inspector had to decide whether there were "very special 
circumstances" to make an exception to the normal ban on development 
on greenbelt land.

Government planning policy allows that it may be necessary to accept 
the establishment of gypsy sites in protected areas, including 
greenbelt areas.Mrs O'Connor applied for her application to be 
treated as an exception because of her status as a gypsy.

The inspector decided to reject her appeal, saying she had lost her 
gypsy status because she no longer followed a nomadic way of life.

He said that, even though she and her children occasionally travelled 
to fairs, selling artificial flowers, her income was strictly limited 
because of her state benefits payments.

She therefore no longer fitted the statutory definition of a gypsy 
for the purposes of the 1960 Caravan Sites and Control of Development 
Act, which empowers local authorities to provide sites for caravans 
for gypsies, defined as "persons of nomadic habit of life" whatever 
their race or origin.

Ordering a reconsideration of her case, Mr Justice Field said the 
inspector had failed to take account of all the circumstances. These 
included her history, the reasons for her ceasing to travel and the 
evidence of her future chances of resuming her former nomadic way of 
life, as well as her attitude to living in caravans rather than 
conventional houses. 

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