MORE ‘Big Fat Gipsy Weddings’ are set to be held in the city after a controversial new travellers’ site was given the go-ahead.
As millions watched the launch of the smash-hit television show this month, a small crowd of people spent their Tuesday evening challenging the council in an emotive five-hour gipsy debate.
The subject was whether plans to build a £1.8m permanent site for travellers should go ahead on woodland at Fenny Lock.
The objections from the public, some of whom felt homes would be devalued, included everything from loss of wildlife to a waste of cash.
Just before midnight the vote was taken and it was agreed by a small majority that the 10 pitch site would be built.
Now travellers themselves, who have been battling for the facility for more than two years, believe ‘My Big Fat Gipsy Wedding’ helped swing the public opinion at the 11th hour.
“The programme has made people understand the gipsy culture and showed we can be decent folk with morals and standards,” said one traveller.
“For years we’ve been called ‘dirty gipsies’ or ‘pikeys’ by those who knew nothing about us. Now at least people are learning what we are really like,” he added.
Already 12 gipsy families live on a purpose-built site at Calverton and six more at Willen. Their homes are mainly ‘permanent caravans’ – brick-built bungalows with hot and cold water, electricity, showers and flushing toilets.
The Fenny Lock site, due to be completed by September, will consist of similar buildings around landscaping and a central play area.
“What people don’t realise is that on these sites we pay our rent and we pay our council tax just like anyone else. We just choose to live in our own community, that’s all.” said the traveller spokesman.
Already Fenny Lock has had 29 applications for the 10 pitches. Some were from gipsies elsewhere in the country, some from homeless travellers and some from gipsies currently living in council houses but yearning to be back within their community. Each family will pay £100 a week rent – £16 more than the average council house – and band B council tax.
Children will go to local schools and the families will access city health care facilities, said councillor Chris Williams, the Liberal Democrat head of housing.
“After the initial £1.8 million capital, which comes from the government, the site will make a small profit each year,” he told the Citizen.
“The Fenny Lock site has been a controversial subject and an emotive one. Many people felt the money would have been better spent elsewhere. But Milton Keynes has a duty to house all its residents, whatever their culture.”