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Eviction faced by 'secret' camp full of Eastern European workers near Gloucester

By The Citizen  |  Posted: August 31, 2014

By Nick Webster

  • Caravans at the Sandyway Nursery site that are subject of an enforcement notice

  • Up to 70 people could face eviction from the caravan site near Newent

Comments (8)

Scores of migrant agricultural workers from Eastern Europe face eviction from a 'secret' caravan site on the outskirts of Gloucester

More than 20 static caravans on land near Newent are the subject of an enforcement notice issued by Forest of Dean District Council.

If upheld, It could force as many as 70 people out of their homes. The site at Sandyway Nurseries is home to 23 mobile homes.

The landlord claims those living there are land workers and has been providing accommodation to hundreds of people over the past decade.

Enforcement action will shut down the operation under a breach of planning terms. The makeshift camp has no full time sewerage, and is serviced by a cesspit.

One Newent resident, who did not want to be named, said: “The planning application says the people living in the caravan work at nearby nurseries, but we know they work in other businesses.

“They are picked up in a bus and taken to work all over this area. You see them walking to and from the site at night. There is no footpath and no lighting. Big lorries regularly drive past. It is dangerous.”

Farmers and some residents have said they are living in fear of reprisals from workers should they speak out against the landowners plans to expand the caravan site further.

Although some caravans are in good condition, others appear more run down. Most homes have a car parked outside, some are luxury brands like Mercedes and BMW.

The enforcement action is under appeal. If successfully overturned, residents fear it could pave the way for the caravan site to be expanded, or even houses built on the land. Farmers say the soil is some of the best agricultural soil in the country.

Another resident said: “The site is tucked away. It is quite secretive. No one has objected as very few know about it.

“Newent is a community. But many of these people don’t want to be apart of that. They want to establish their own community.

“If these people are here legally, we should be housing them properly and looking after their welfare, not dumping them on a makeshift traveller site with an open sewer. We shouldn’t be hiding them away.”

Owner of Sandyway Nurseries Jacob Van der Lely said the people living there are legally entitled to work and is determined to fight enforcement action.

“We have been paying council tax from the very beginning,” he said.

“We will fight this to the death. We are in the middle of a big fruit picking empire here. We were asked to put mobile homes up for the nursery supervisors and have just expanded. I refuse to be wiped out by out of date planning laws.

“The council arrived with a notice for each person. It was quite threatening. Most are Romanian or Bulgarian and do not speak English.

“I have told the council I do not want to build houses here and made that clear.

“We have complied with all the other environmental considerations. There is foul water going out into the mains and have a proper full drainage system. We are not just trying to put money in our back pockets.

“I take rent from the people living in the caravans, but that is spent on maintenance. There is no question of any illegal immigrants here, you won’t get any trouble from them.”

Mr Van der Lely said he has updated nine out of the 23 mobile homes on the site since he began the operation.

A spokesperson for Forest of Dean District Council, said: “These mobile homes have been sited without permission.

“This is not acceptable and there are no exceptional planning circumstances to merit their retention on the site.

“Action has been commenced to remedy the breach of planning control.

“The enforcement notice served for the removal of the dwellings has effectively been suspended whilst an appeal is considered.

“Within the enforcement notice the council has stated a period of time in which the caravans should be removed. During the appeal process the inspector will consider whether that length of time is sufficient.

“If the enforcement notice is upheld and the caravans are required to be removed the council will offer appropriate assistance to the residents on their housing options.”

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8 comments

  • RetiredLawyer  |  September 02 2014, 3:37PM

    The issue here is the landowner/property owner is breaching planning laws, not the fact the residents may drive BMWs or where they come from. Why should Mr Van Der Lely be allowed to fill a field with 'housing' in the middle of farmland? If this was someone building a nice new house for themselves, but hiding it what would the planning committee say? I've never met this gentleman and he certainly sounds like a nice guy, but he should not operate outside the law. Does anyone remember this: http://tinyurl.com/a86whdl

    |   1
  • bunnypigs1  |  September 01 2014, 7:05PM

    If Mr Webster or any of the anonymous sources of information took time to actually meet or speak to any of the residents of Sandyway this story would be reported very differently. In the main the people are well educated, charming and kind. They live peacefully and so quietly within the local community that the whole site is apparently 'secret' so what's the issue? Within this small community there are loads of human stores that would far better grace the front pages of your news paper than the somewhat factually inaccurate and inflammatory musings that we see today. As for the intimidation that is implied in this article, you would struggle to leave without consuming your body weight in tea and biscuits and chocolate for your children but you would be safe to walk around in the dark with £50 in your pocket. Can that be said many places?

    |   1
  • JaneBaker1969  |  September 01 2014, 6:31PM

    This article is purely seeking a sensational slant which simply isn't there. Me thinks this journalist is aiming his sights on a certain xenophobic red top tabloid!! I have the pleasure of knowing the landlord Mr Jacob Van der Lely and find him one of the most honest, hard working and kindest persons I have ever met. I find it ridiculous that he is being accused of creating a 'secret' encampment and forcing his workers to live in poor conditions. I have walked around the site and seen that the workers take pride in their caravans and made them into homes. What is wrong with providing your agricultural workers with affordable accommodation? All of the workers have the utmost respect for Mr Van der Lely as a landlord and as a friend. Two of his workers have asked Mr Van der Lely to be godfather to their new baby - hardly the actions of exploited illegal immigrants!!

    |   -1
  • JaneBaker1969  |  September 01 2014, 6:29PM

    This article is purely seeking a sensational slant which simply isn't there. Me thinks this journalist is aiming his sights on a certain xenophobic red top tabloid!! I have the pleasure of knowing the landlord Mr Jacob Van der Lely and find him one of the most honest, hard working and kindest persons I have ever met. I find it ridiculous that he is being accused of creating a 'secret' encampment and forcing his workers to live in poor conditions. I have walked around the site and seen that the workers take pride in their caravans and made them into homes. What is wrong with providing your agricultural workers with affordable accommodation? All of the workers have the utmost respect for Mr Van der Lely as a landlord and as a friend. Two of his workers have asked Mr Van der Lely to be godfather to their new baby - hardly the actions of exploited illegal immigrants!!

    |   -1
  • raspberry123  |  September 01 2014, 4:36PM

    in what way is this a secret site? - the council have been aware of it for 10 years at least and this very paper ran an article about Sandyway and Jacob - a positive article too with a nice picture I might add, some 5 years ago - so it's not a secret to this paper, its editor or it's readers - plus there are many incorrect facts here and lots of inflammatory language hiding behind 'secret sources' - what's the real agenda here then - please tell us ???

    |   -1
  • Kay_Powell  |  September 01 2014, 4:21PM

    Clare, I agree that the article is badly written. For a start, if this farm is near Newent, it certainly isn't "on the outskirts of Gloucester." It seems that the whole argument rests on whether or not these migrants are genuinely agricultural workers, which should be fairly easy to prove.

    |   -53
  • claremcvey  |  September 01 2014, 3:50PM

    I happen to know the man who runs this farm and he is a decent, honest, hard-working man who is trying to do the right thing by the workers while also complying with the various rules and regulations imposed on him by the planners. The notion of a "secret encampment" is ludicrous and implies he's been acting in an underhand manner. He is providing workers who are legally entitled to work here, with an affordable place to live thereby reducing strain on an already over-stretched local authority housing stock. If the enforcement notice is upheld, I'd love to know what the "housing options" will be for all these people. And the people who live there ARE contributing to the local economy – I've seen them walking to the nurseries with shopping bags from Newent shops. What does the anonymous person who claims the workers don't want to be part of the community, expect them to do, exactly? I think it's interesting that all the sources in your story who are voicing concerns about the caravans, are anonymous. Speaking as a qualified, experienced journalist, I'd exercise some caution in running a story with so many unnamed sources and also in making vague but sensational claims such as: "Farmers and some residents have said they are living in fear of reprisals from workers should they speak out against the landowners plans to expand the caravan site further." Who has said this and what is this totally unsubstantiated claim based on? (And by the way, there should be an apostrophe in "landowner's". It's possessive). Clare McVey Editor and publisher The Cheltenham Directory

    |   -1
  • HonkyTWomble  |  August 31 2014, 4:29PM

    Would be interesting to know how much he pays them and how much he deducts for rent.

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