A TRAVELLER dad-of-six has today hit back at false claims from residents that gypsies are "criminals" – insisting he runs his own business and has never claimed benefits.
Tracy McCready made an impassioned defence of the community he is proud to be part during a planning row inquiry.
He was the only member of his huge extended family to appear in person at his public appeal hearing fighting a council’s decision not to allow him to erect five new traveller pitches on his current site.
Mr McCready said: “We are good law abiding people who work hard and never claim benefits.”
Harborough District Council was defending its refusal of permission for eight extra caravans and mobile homes at his large premises in Bitteswell village on the outskirts of Lutterworth, Leicestershire.
Council representatives said there had been numerous objections and complaints from local residents who feared more caravans would attract more travellers to the site.
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But the complaint that sparked fury was that their presence “increased risk of crime or a fear of crime" in the community.
Mr McCready, appealing the decision, at times wept as he spoke passionately and eloquently about his chosen way of life.
He said: “If I don’t receive planning permission because I am a gypsy I am being punished for a crime I have never done.”
“I work hard, I run a landscaping business and my two elder sons work with me and another helps out.
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“We want to provide for our family and we want to do it properly.
“We pay our own way, we pay our own taxes and we don’t claim any benefits.”
The married businessman, who has five sons, ranging from three to 21, and a 20-year old daughter, added: “People judge us because we are gypsies.”
He said it was unfair that he was being judged by locals because of his lifestyle, saying: “There is nothing bad to say about me or my family.
“We take nothing from society, we are good people, law abiding and we are not trouble makers. We do not commit crime.”
Mr McCready told how he stopped any alleged wayward youths on his camp at Merw Meadows on Mere Lane, which has 42 pitches, by getting them reprimanded.
He told public inquiry Inspector Ms Karen Taylor, sitting at the council’s HQ The Symington Building in Market Harborough, Leics, that he felt he had support from some villagers and local beat police officers.
We take nothing from society, we are good people, law abiding and we are not trouble makers. We do not commit crime
The dad, who did not give his age, said it was unfair to tarnish the traveller community with criminal activity and anti-social behaviour – saying it was a misconception.
He explained that any possible wrongdoers were in “a minority not a majority.”
He added: “I do understand peoples’ worries but getting rid of good people to make way for bad people is not our way.”
Mr McCready, who appears to the father figure in the camp where he has lived for 14 years and where he owns the biggest plots, said: “If kids on the camp misbehave, if there’s any problem we sort it.”
He told of one situation where “a kid robbed a stamp” from the local post office and after complaints he made the parents go down and “pay for that stamp.”
When asked by the appeal inspector how failing to win planning permission would affect his family life, he replied: “It would have a big impact on family life.
"This is our family home and we want to provide for all members."
He told how his son had recently married and would want to have children, and how his teenage boys needed their own space and caravan as they grew up.
He said he had four cousins living on the site, plus their parents and kids, a brother-in-law and his parents and “quite a number of other cousins.”
He added: “You need a home for your family and we need more space for ours.”
He told how his sons enjoyed soccer and one went to church, saying: “Yes, gypsies play football and go to church.
“We integrate with the community.”
But he explained his kids didn’t go to local schools as they were home schooled.
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It comes as mum-of-five Amy Gentle dispelled myths that travellers don't pay tax, they always want to live on the road and that they leave a trail of rubbish behind them.
And she vowed never to hide who she really is – despite being treated as "the lowest of the low" on a daily basis.
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