GROUND-BREAKING NORFOLK GYPSY AND TRAVELLER SITE CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY
A ground-breaking Gypsy and Traveller site on the southern edge of Norwich has celebrated its tenth anniversary – and has been praised for “massively improving” the lives of the families who are living there.
The Brooks Green site at Harford, just south of Norwich, was created in 2009 as the result of an innovative partnership between South Norfolk Council and Broadland Housing Group – the first development of its kind in the UK.
The site has eight caravan pitches, each with an attached building with dining, bathroom and toilet facilities. Families rent their pitches from the housing association in the same way as regular affordable housing.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the site, residents were invited to a barbecue on the site by Broadland Housing Group.
Many residents took the chance to say how successful they thought the initiative had been. Betsy Mitchell, who has lived at Brooks Green since it opened and has seen 12 of her 15 grandchildren born there, said it had transformed the lives of the families living there.
“I reckon this is one of the best sites that has been built,” she said. “I had lived on a site when I was younger, and the facilities were tiny and very basic; here we have got everything you would have in a house, except the bedrooms.
“When they first showed me the plans, I was amazed. In fact, I never thought it would happen. It has massively improved life for the kids, for us all.”
Joining the celebrations was Broadland Housing Group chief executive Michael Newey, who said, “Our job is to create places where people can create communities. The Gypsy and Traveller community is often misunderstood, but we refuse to accept that any single group should be second-class citizens.
“The idea that families are constantly being moved on, even when they include people with terminal illnesses, as well as children of all ages – that denies them the ability to be part of the kind of community which most of us take for granted.
“It took an innovative mindset and a lot of hard work to create this – but looking at it ten years later, it was very definitely worth it. It has become a proper community.
“There aren’t anywhere near enough plots for the Gypsy and Traveller community. Our job is to solve housing need; so when we can, we will.”
Broadland Housing Group executive development director Andrew Savage, who played a major role in bringing Brooks Green into existence ten years ago, was also at the celebration.
“Ten years ago, no-one knew what type of Gypsy and Traveller site would be successful. Too many organisations don’t spend the time finding out how these communities work.
“But if you listen, as we did, and you give people a decent place to live, then when you come back ten years later, you will find a vibrant and successful community.”
The Brooks Green site was developed with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, while the land is leased from a local famer.
Following cuts to central government funds for the development of authorised Gypsy and Traveller sites, few similar projects have been completed across the UK in the past decade, although Broadland Housing Group is developing plans for a second site in the county.