Travellers: We’re just like everyone else, except we live in caravans

Travellers in Dewsbury.
Travellers in Dewsbury.
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The biggest victims of crime from a travellers site in Gildersome are the travellers themselves. That’s the opinion of one resident of Cottingley Springs.

The Cottingley Springs Caravan site is the first and only permanent site for gipsies and travellers in the Leeds area.

While discussions continue around the controversial £1m expansion of the site, residents who live there have told us what life is like for them and their views on increasing the number of pitches from 41 to 53.

One woman who lives in one of the caravans with her children said that she thought more travellers sites were needed – but elsewhere.

The resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We’ve got to live here and it’s too big as it is.

“They just want to build on top of us, if it’s bigger it creates more hassle.”

She said that previous expansions have already proved difficult and had been reversed.

“We didn’t have proper facilities, the council couldn’t afford to do up all of Cottingley.”

There are thought to be around 200 traveller families in the Leeds area and the latest expansion, proposed by Leeds City Council, aims to reduce the numbers of travellers living on unauthorised land. The mother-of-three, who previously lived on an unauthorised encampment before moving to the “comfortable” Cottingley site eight years ago, said: “It was a hard experience living on a roadside in Leeds. No water, no toilets. Summer was okay but winter was dreadful.”

But despite the horrid conditions she did not want to live in a house as it is her way of life.

She added: “I’ll always live in a caravan. The only thing that’s different about us is that we live in caravans.”

She said that travellers and Gipsies work and shop like everyone else.

“People get the wrong impression of us. We’re people, we’re human beings, we’re no different.”

She said that she and others at the site would like to be included in things such as consultation meetings as well as getting involved with the wider community.

“No matter what people think we’re part of society. We keep ourselves to ourselves and just get on with it.”

Elaine, a fellow resident at Cottingley Springs, also wants to dispel myths about gipsies and travellers not contributing to society.

Elaine, who asked us not to use her surname, is a volunteer for a local charity alongside looking after her sick husband.

She said: “I try to contribute to my wider community. I am also aware of other people on the site who do similar work, including a young man who recently has gone to Africa to do charity work.”

She said that Cottingley Springs Caravan Site was home to two specific ethnic groups of people, and it was important not to make sweeping generalisations. “There may be the odd person who carries out anti-social behaviour within these two groups but after all, the biggest victim of anti-social behaviour from residents at Cottingley Springs, are the residents of Cottingley Springs,” she said.