'We had to leave flood-hit land for the sake of our health' - travellers speak of seven year wait for their own site on Rougham Hill in Bury St Edmunds
A family of travellers who have waited seven years for a site to call their home in Bury St Edmunds say they have done ‘everything by the book’ and had to leave flood-hit council land for the sake of their health.
Last week, the Delaney family moved onto their site on Rougham Hill, where they hold a 25-year lease, pay ground rent to West Suffolk Council and hold planning permission.
They were based for six years on land, off Compiegne Way, which was provided by the council and intended to be temporary while preparations were made on the Rougham Hill site.
However, following delays and issues with flooding, an infestation of rats and a lack of facilities at the Compiegne Way site, the family said they couldn’t live there any longer and moved to Rougham Hill lorry park, which is owned by Suffolk County Council.
The family were able to move onto their own site on Rougham Hill last week.
A spokesman for the Delaney family said: “We’ve been involved in this project for six to seven years, we’ve done everything by the book and we’ve ticked every legal box that had to be ticked. We got planning permission years ago.
“We’ve been paying ground rent on this land for years and we haven’t been residing on it.”
He said they had been living on the Compiegne Way site for six years with no water or toilets and in January the land was flooded followed by an infestation of water rats.
“We had enough and we couldn’t live any longer like that,” he said.
“We’re trying to make life better for ourselves, for our family.
We’ve been involved in this project for six to seven years, we’ve done everything by the book and we’ve ticked every legal box that had to be ticked - a spokesman for the Delaney family
“We couldn’t reside there any more. We had to come to a decision for our family’s sake, for our own health and mental health.”
Michael Hargreaves, planning agent for the family, said the then St Edmundsbury Borough Council identified Rougham Hill for the family.
However, proposals for a private five pitch site in woodland were refused as a masterplan for the area had not been adopted.
The plans were later approved by a planning inspector in 2016, with further details agreed in 2019.
Mr Hargreaves noted that last autumn the site was partly developed with water and sewerage pipes installed.
“Work stopped because Suffolk County Council which earlier had approved the access design decided it didn’t meet their standards,” he said.
At times how long things have taken has been difficult for me let alone the family to understand - Michael Hargreaves
“After three months they are still trying to come up with a design which meets their requirements.”
He said the family ‘had had enough’ after Compiegne Way flooded – followed by the infestation of rats.
The family relocated to the lorry park ‘to get things moving’ and are now on the site ‘they were promised seven years ago’
Mr Hargreaves said the ‘urgent thing now’ was for the council to connect the water supply and sewer pipes.
The family is now using a temporary access while the detailed design is finalised.
He added: “At times how long things have taken has been difficult for me let alone the family to understand.”
The family spokesman said they hadn’t finished tidying the Compiegne Way site but will once they have made Rougham Hill habitable.
“We’re going to do that but we can’t do everything at once,” he said.
Now they were on their own site, he said they felt ‘50 per cent better’ and would feel 100 per cent if they had water.
A West Suffolk Council spokesman said: “We have worked with the family for a number of years to facilitate their move to their site at Rougham Hill.
"They have now decided to move to Rougham Hill and we are continuing in our work to help them get the site completed.
“There is an agreement in place for the family to remove waste from the tolerated site at Compiegne Way and we expect them to honour this agreement.”
Suffolk County Council said it had nothing further to add.