In a landmark action to stop the blight that has hit so many communities, residents of a housing estate that now occupies the former RAF Locking have barricaded themselves into the 100-acre site and mounted a 24-hour guard. Every car coming in or out of the estate near Weston-super-Mare was checked.What ‘blight’ could possibly drive people to these measures?
And what sort of people are we talking about?
All through the night they stood at the gates, ready to repel the invasion.A real cross-section, then. And their opponents?
The old RAF camp had never seen an army like this, not in all its years of proud service.
There was a nurse, a lorry driver, a shopkeeper and ambulanceman, several young mothers with children at their side – and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Kandie.
Take a wild guess:
But last weekend, after 15 or 20 caravans were evicted from a nearby field, some of the ‘gipsies’ drove around the Locking site and took photographs.You’d think warnings of imminent armed invaders to a respectable area would bring the police out in force, would you?
One of them let it be known they had targeted the privately-owned estate and intended to set up camp on some of the open, grassy landscape where children play and people walk their dogs. He reportedly warned residents not to resist, adding: ‘We’ve got guns.’
Sadly, you’d be wrong:
What happened next is a depressingly familiar saga that has unfolded in countless towns and villages, where travellers have used human rights legislation to ride roughshod over any laws that apply to ordinary folk.When will they both intervene? When it’s too late to do anything about it, of course.
The police were sympathetic but said they had only limited powers to act, primarily if a breach of the peace was threatened.
The local council – which has a legal duty anyway to provide formal sites for travellers – said it could not intervene at this stage.
When someone’s been shot, or when the travellers are camped out and entrenched into their stolen land…
And before the usual suspects begin whining about ‘rich home owners NIMBYism and prejudice’, they can just think again:
‘We’ve got nothing against real gipsies or law-abiding travellers – there are already some in the area and they’re no trouble at all.Is he wrong?
‘But even the ones that are here now told us this lot were different. They said they were “just a bunch of ****ing pikeys”.
‘They’re certainly not Romanies. They’re just parasites, the dregs of humanity, and we don’t want them here. But it’s the same old story. The law looks after people like this far better than it looks after us. They’ve got their “human rights”. Thanks to the law as it is at the moment, we don’t seem to have any human rights.’
He isn’t, is he?
The estate was formed after the Ministry of Defence put the old RAF living quarters and some of the land up for sale. A development company converted 328 homes and sold them to private buyers.Quite. As Obsidian remarked:
Properties on the estate are now worth between about £150,000 and £320,000. Many have been turned into suburban havens by proud owners, in tranquil roads where hanging baskets and cherry trees abound.
Now some of those same people are doing guard duty for up to 20 hours at a stretch.
Louise Bailey, 31, a part-time supermarket worker and mother of two, told me: ‘We feel totally let down. There doesn’t seem to be any way of protecting our community apart from doing it ourselves.’
”… will we eventually see something over here? Public anger isn't boiling over, is barely palpable - we're British and tend to do the whole Stiff Upper Lip thing, wing mirrors smashed again? Fix them, no point informing the police as they'll do precisely bugger all - but it is rising, like acid reflux, and starting to irritate a little. Before long it'll burn, and all that pent up rage will unwind as the Stiff Upper Lip shifts to Thoughtless Rage.”Let’s hope we see more of this type of non-violent action instead.
But if we don’t, or if the violence from the other side escalates, who will really be at fault here?
Two miles away, a vision of what they are fighting against was emerging in the morning mist. About a dozen caravans and vehicles set up camp on some grass verges beside the M5 motorway. Other trucks and caravans joined them later.The people of Locking have shown the way.
How long would they be there, I asked one of the men. ‘Not long,’ he said with a smile. ‘Not long.’
Can others - will others – follow where they lead?