A TRAVELLER has been challenged over his right to live on land in Newent.
Ricky Jones, 40, spoke yesterday at an inquiry into land he and other families have been living on for three years without permission.
He said they were "lucky and fortunate" to have found the site in Southend Lane and were keen to stay there as they have nowhere else to go.
The planning appeal inquiry began at Newent Community Centre on Monday. It is dealing with two appeals; one against an enforcement notice served by Forest of Dean District Council, and one against the rejection of plans to build a 13-pitch caravan site on the land.
Father-of-four Mr Jones bought the land with others for £50,000 and described everyone living there as "like a family".
But Forest of Dean District Council, which is fighting to remove them from the land, questioned this.
A council officer asked Mr Jones detailed questions about people living on the site.
She asked where they had lived previously and when they had arrived on the site.
When he was unable to answer some of the questions, he said he was "not the warden of the site".
He added: "We are not the type of community to get into personal questions like that."
The officer said: "This is the difference between families that are close-knit and support each other through ups and downs and people who don't know each other and don't need to be kept together."
Mr Jones was also questioned over whether he could live elsewhere. He also owns a site in Hereford and moves between there and Newent with his wife and twin boys.
He said the site in Hereford was subject to an enforcement notice. When asked where he could go if he cannot stay in Newent, he said: "We have got nowhere to go. The council has nowhere for us to go."
The hearing continues.