A member of the Gypsy community has noted double standards in the treatment of people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups after Bolton Council started action to evict people from the Crompton Lodge caravan park.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were 28 Traveller caravans recorded in Bolton in January – up from 11 the year before, with none counted as ‘unauthorised’ by officials.

Across England, there were 26,632 caravans counted in January, an increase of seven per cent from the year before – however, the department said this was partly explained by data quality improvements in the most recent count.

Sybil Lee grew up on Crompton Lodge caravan park. Now aged 47, Sybil – herself an English Gypsy – moved out to Wigan when she was aged 19, but she is originally a Boltonian.

She believes the site became too large to manage, and should have instead been split in to two smaller sites.

She said: “It’s like a big council estate, if you’ve got a lot of people on a big council estate it’s very hard for anybody to manage it.

“Crompton Lodge shouldn’t be closed, but it should be managed a lot better than it is, because where are they going to put people when they move them off?

“They then become homeless, so what happens then?”

Sybil Lee previously lived at Crompton LodgeSybil Lee previously lived at Crompton Lodge (Image: Sybil Lee)

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She added: “They wouldn’t close Breightmet down, would they, and move everybody out of that estate?

“Where are they going to put them? Are they going to open a new caravan site for them, are they going to give them houses?

“What are they doing to support the people that have been in that area for a long, long, long time?”

A seasoned campaigner, Sybil thinks there is not enough understanding of the Roma community.

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While educational attainment in Roma communities is generally lower than the population as a whole, according to ONS census data, Sybil was keen to point out that the proportion of Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller people staying in education is increasing.

Despite having three jobs, she recalls an incident where, she says, she was stereotyped as a tax avoider.

Sybil thinks stereotypes about the community contribute to this lack of understanding and poor policy decisions.

“To be honest with you, I’ve sat in Parliament and talked about this until I was blue in the face, and all that it is: a tick-box exercise – sorry, but that’s what it feels like,” the 47-year-old said.

She added: “They’re going to the wrong people to talk about it – if you look at the Gypsy, Travellers, and Roma community who work in these organisations that so-called represent us, there’s hardly anybody from Lancashire.

“There’s nobody from this side of the fence, they’re all either London way or they’re from Yorkshire.”

For now, a large proportion of Bolton’s Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller community is living in limbo.

A court hearing to grant the order to evict people from the site has been delayed until next month – meaning those living on the site have a little longer to come to terms with the loss of their home.

If granted, breaching a closure order is a criminal offence carrying a penalty of either imprisonment for a period of up to six months or an unlimited fine, or both.  

Council officers said residents who hold tenancy agreements will be supported throughout the process.

If you have a story, I cover the whole borough of Bolton. Please get in touch at jack.fifield@newsquest.co.uk.