September 3 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, June 14, 2014
A couple say they were given no notice that their home was going to be dismantled when a nine year planning wrangle came to an end as they watched their two caravans ripped down by a team of workmen.
Gypsies Rodney Wilson and his partner, Pamela Wenn, were on their way out at about 8.15 am when they say the 15-strong enforcement team turned up with police at their home at Walsoken, near Wisbech.
They got to work quickly taking down the immaculate £250,000 home in Broad End Road which has been removed in pieces to be stored at a friend’s yard in Wisbech.
Their possessions have been packed into container storage and are with friends and family across the Fens.
Mr Wilson, 71, said: “They said they didn’t give us 48 hour notice as they expected trouble because we are gypsies.
“We knew there was a planning problem, but as far as we were concerned it was still under appeal. We had no idea they were coming to take the caravan down that day. We are now homeless.”
His daughter Michelle Wilson said; ““This was a mass of a mess.
“My parents were given no chance to get their thing together. Things were smashed out with crow bars, curtains and pelmets were ripped down, it has been devastating.”
The two caravans, which were said to be 18 inches too wide, were dismantled after a long-running planning dispute.
Ms Wenn said: “If they had arrived another 15 minutes later we wouldn’t have been here. We were led to believe that we had 48 hours notice - they have jumped in before we have appealed against the decision.
“There has been no notification, no leeway, they just turned up - the council have treated us like scum, but what do you do?”
She tearfully added: “I have no where else to go.”
The couple moved to the site nine years ago when it was vacant, with a ban on development.
However after winning an appeal in 2011, they were granted permission to put two mobile homes together. It emerged that the home, which had three bedrooms and a conservatory, was built 18ins too wide - 24ft wide, instead of the maximum 22ft 3ins permitted under complex guidelines governing caravan sites.
After an injunction was lifted, which was in place pending the latest planning appeal, the council were in a position to take action.
A West Norfolk Council spokesman said: “Mr Wilson stationed a park home on this site in 2005, without planning permission.
“We have attempted to work with him in an effort to resolve this situation and it is only after nine years that we are finally forced to take action to remove this building.
“We always work hard to find a solution to planning breaches to avoid the need for direct action, but in this instance we have been left with no alternative.
“It is important that people have confidence in the planning system and that it is applied fairly and consistently to all groups in society.
“Gypsies are given special exemption to station caravans in the countryside to reflect their lifestyle and particular needs. These exemptions do not extend to what has been stationed on this site, and it is effectively a house that has been built.”