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East Lancashire travellers: We just want somewhere to stay
THERE have been several illegal travellers camps in East Lancashire in the last few week, causing an outcry from nearby residents. We spoke to one family from the travelling community about their lifestyle.
A FAMILY of travellers has hit out at the treatment of their community in East Lancashire in recent weeks.
A week ago, 35 families pitched up at Haslingden Leisure Centre, including several people who had featured on the TV series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
After a campaign for them to move on, they did just that, straight to community playing fields in Green Lane, Blackburn.
Now the group has left Blackburn, after a stint at the Focus car park in Greenbank.
In Burnley, travellers have set up a temporary site in fields at Cliviger, while there has also been a camp at the former Towneley High School site this week.
Last month travellers spent four days at Arden Hall, Accrington, before moving on to playing fields off Bolton Avenue at Huncoat.
After moving on, local councils said they had spent up to £1,000 putting the sites back to their original condition.
In most cases there has been an angry reaction from residents about with concerns about damage to property, crime and fly-tipping.
But Christy Leah, 20, who is a Blackburn-based traveller, said more needs to be done to accommodate the community.
The mum-of-one, who is living in a temporary site in Blackburn, said: “People are so uneducated.
"Most people around here have never even spoken to a traveller so how can they criticise us so much?
“We are British citizens who want to be treated with respect.
"We do not want handouts, just somewhere to stay.”
Mrs Leah, who has a 20-month-old child, grew up ‘on the roadside verges’ in Langho and the Ribble Valley in a horse-drawn caravan.
But she now lives with her husband, child and parents in a trailer in Blackburn.
She said: “Most of the problems are caused because of the totally over-the-top reaction to the camps.
“People see travellers and go mad. If they just left them alone and welcomed them then I’m sure they would leave very soon.
"They are travellers so they will not stay for long.”
Mrs Leah said that an increase in the number of travellers in the area recently has been due to the recent Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria and several local Christian festivals.
And she said that they had no option but to use fields and wasteland because the official sites were inadequate.
She said: “Existing traveller sites are full to bursting therefore we are forced to live on the side of the road.
"But we get attacked by all corners for this all because the council won't let us spend our own money on providing a safe base for our children.
“It’s a disgrace. Everyone is failing us and no one will listen.
“We leave places very tidy. We take all rubbish to local recycling points.
"There are good and bad in every community but we are all tarred with the same brush.”
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