Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 12:56 UK

Candidates divided on travellers in Devon and Cornwall

Traveller site
Romany Gypsy Michael Lee called the sites "prison camps"

Political candidates have disagreed over methods of dealing with Gypsies and travellers in Devon and Cornwall.

The counties have only a handful of official sites and proposals for new sites have faced strong opposition.

A proposal for four sites in Devon was dropped in 2004 after a campaign against them by local people.

The main political parties agree travellers have a right to their traditional life, but differ in how best this should be achieved.

'Better value'

Jude Robinson, Labour candidate for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, said Labour wanted to see more official sites.

She said: "We want to work with local authorities to indentify the needs of Gypsy communities and settled communities.

"Across the country local authorities are spending millions of pounds moving Gypsies and travellers on.

"It would be far better value spending some of that money building sites and it saves money in the long run."

Transit site campaigners
Plans for four sites in Devon were withdrawn after opposition

The Conservatives would make it a criminal offence to park up illegally and scrap the right of travellers to cite the Human Rights Act.

Neil Parish, Conservative candidate for Tiverton and Honiton, said: "They are entitled to live a nomadic life.

"But should they be able to just go in and take somebody's property and abuse a planning system which none of the rest of the population would be able to?

"It's about getting the balance right, with proper provision, and stopping Gypsies from just being able to move in anywhere."

You pull up now - the police will come along and you'll get an hour to pull off
Romany Gypsy Michael Lee

When four sites were identified in Devon, there was strong opposition and the plans were withdrawn in 2004.

The Liberal Democrats believe the plans failed, in part, because the choices were imposed on communities.

Phil Hutty, Liberal Democrat candidate for Devon Central, said: "We have had travellers in our backyard forever.

"It's the local community that can find the solutions to this difficult problem of finding acceptable sites for travellers.

"I believe that they will do that. There are lots of prejudices but we can overcome that with the right information and consultation."

Romany Gypsy Michael Lee, who is parked legally on one of three official sites in Cornwall, said he was grateful for electricity and water, but it was a far cry from his nomadic life.

He said: "You pull up now - the police will come along and you'll get an hour to pull off.

"If you don't they'll compound your caravan.

"These sites are like a prison camp."

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