Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Travellers Make Hertfordshire home


For the past three weeks, the Hertfordshire countryside village of Little Hadham has hosted guests who have not exactly been welcomed with open arms.

On Good Friday, a large group of travellers arrived at Little Hadham, shattering its tranquillity and causing anger among villagers who fear their peaceful rural haven is now threatened by a permanent caravan site.

In an astonishingly slick operation, contractors paid by the travellers poured 2,000 tons of hardcore on to a field on the edge of the village and, in just four days over Easter, transformed it into an ugly caravan park.

Caravans continued to arrive until last weekend. The site is now occupied by ten families who yesterday told The Mail on Sunday defiantly that they will have to be ‘dragged’ off the land.

The drama in Little Hadham, with a population of just over 1,000 people, is a vivid example of how the quiet serenity of a village, which has hardly changed for centuries, can be upturned in a matter of hours – and how residents are powerless to stop it. The travellers have bought the land but did not secure planning permission before they began building fences and laying the hardstanding on which they parked more than 20 caravans and mobile homes.

After their abrupt arrival, the council served an injunction banning any more building at the site but villagers complain that it has been flouted.

To their mounting frustration, police have not enforced the injunction because they say it is a civil, rather than a criminal, matter. Little Hadham was once the home of 1970s folk rock group Fairport Convention. It is now popular with wealthy professionals wanting a peaceful location within striking distance of the capital.

The village is a ten-minute drive from the M11 and three miles from Bishop’s Stortford, with its 40-minute rail connection to London.

On the edge of the village is Silver Leys Polo Club, believed to be England’s oldest, where teams from across the country will next weekend gather to compete in the Blue Ribbon Cup.

Porsches, Range Rovers and Bentleys are parked outside the 50 or so homes in the village, which are each worth more than £1 million.

One area of the village, called Westland Green, is known locally as ‘Millionaires Row’ and residents include judges, bankers, company bosses and former West Ham and England defender Matthew Upson.

At 8.30am on Good Friday, three 20-ton lorries rumbled on to a nearby field next to Chapel Lane. It was the first that many in the village knew about the site being sold – quite legitimately – to travellers.

Land Registry records show that the land was purchased in November for £95,000 by Donna Bull, of Plaistow, East London. She could not be contacted for comment.

A contractor for the lorry company told one astonished resident they were planning to make 30 deliveries of hardcore to the field that day.

Locals stood in the lane and watched gobsmacked as the trucks delivered around 2,000 tons of the building material, turning the field into ‘something resembling a car park’.

Although initially blindsided by the travellers’ sudden arrival, East Hertfordshire District Council had by Saturday obtained an injunction banning any more building at the site. The council, however, says the travellers have ‘not complied with the terms of the injunction’ and the work is believed to have continued until Easter Monday.

As the drama unfolded, two travellers knocked on the door of one resident, claiming they were about to bring through a heavy piece of plant machinery. They asked the resident to move a car to make space in the road. The resident agreed, only to find that the heavy plant machinery was actually a static caravan on the back of a lorry.

The travellers have lodged a planning application with the council for permission to build the caravan park, which would allow ten mobile homes and ten touring caravans.

One new traveller resident, Tommy, was defiant and made clear that the travellers were determined to make the site their home. ‘When we get planning permission, we are going to tarmac the whole field,’ he said.

‘We want to get water and electricity – we want to put up lights and gates. This place will look better than the millionaires’ homes up the road. We don’t want to raise our children at the side of a road. Wherever we go, we get moved on.

‘We want our children to be registered with GPs and learn how to read and write in schools. We have pregnant women who will need to give birth soon in hospital.

‘It is better that we are here than in a school field or park.’

His comments will raise fears that the people of Little Hadham could face years of legal battles.