Brooks Green site at Harford, just south of Norwich, celebrated its 10th birthday recently. The scheme was created in 2009 and resulted from an innovative partnership between South Norfolk Council and Broadland Housing Group – the first development of its kind in the UK.
The site has 8 caravan pitches, each with an attached building with dining, bathroom and toilet facilities. Families rent their pitches from Broadland the same way as regular affordable housing.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the site, Broadland hosted a BBQ and put on children’s activities for tenants and their families.
Betsy Mitchell has lived at Brooks Green since it opened, and she has seen 12 of her 15 grandchildren born there. Betsy said the scheme had transformed the lives of the families living there:
I reckon this is one of the best sites that has been built. I had lived on a site when I was younger, and the facilities were tiny and very basic; here we have got everything you would have in a house, except the bedrooms.
When they first showed me the plans, I was amazed. In fact, I never thought it would happen. It has massively improved life for the kids, for us all.
Joining the celebrations was Broadland Housing Group chief executive Michael Newey. He said:
Our job is to create places where people can create communities. The Gypsy and Traveller community is often misunderstood, but we refuse to accept that any single group should be second-class citizens.
The idea that families are constantly being moved on, even when they include people with terminal illnesses, as well as children of all ages – that denies them the ability to be part of the kind of community which most of us take for granted.
It took an innovative mindset and a lot of hard work to create this – but looking at it ten years later, it was very definitely worth it. It has become a proper community.
There aren’t anywhere near enough plots for the Gypsy and Traveller community. Our job is to solve housing need; so when we can, we will.
Broadland Housing Group executive development director Andrew Savage, who played a major role in bringing Brooks Green into existence ten years ago, was also at the celebration:
10 years ago, no one knew what type of Gypsy and Traveller site would be successful. Too many organisations don’t spend the time finding out how these communities work.
But if you listen, as we did, and you give people a decent place to live, then when you come back 10 years later, you will find a vibrant and successful community.
The Brooks Green site was developed with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, while the land is leased from a local famer. Following cuts to central government funds for the development of authorised Gypsy and Traveller sites, few similar projects have been completed across the UK in the past decade.