Woman living in horsebox ordered off site
A WOMAN who set up home in a converted horsebox in Cleeve after falling on hard times has been given three months to leave the site.
North Somerset Council applied to North Somerset Magistrates Court for an order asking Victoria Hatfield to leave a piece of common ground used as a car park at Cleeve Common where she has lived since 2008.
Magistrates granted the order yesterday and gave Miss Hatfield, 51, three months to move the vehicles – a converted horsebox and a jeep – from the site.
If Miss Hatfield, a former university researcher, fails to comply with the order, the vehicles and her belongings will be moved off the site by the authority and put into storage.
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The court heard how the council had been trying to work with Miss Hatfield, who is unemployed, over the years to find her alternative accommodation.
The authority has also offered to help pay for repairs to make her vehicles into roadworthy condition so she could move off the site.
Miss Hatfield says she is unhappy with the decision and would happy to move off the site if she could find an alternative base which was tolerable to the council.
And she added that if she was offered a flat she would not be able to afford to run it on her £105 a week incapacity benefit payment.
She said: "I do not think the action being taken by the council is justified. I cause no problem by being on the site and have letters of support from the local community for me to stay.
"I now hope to move to a site which is tolerable to the council.
"I want to keep my home.
"If I move into a flat I will not be able to afford to run it."
Miss Hatfield sold her home in Bristol in 2003 after she became unwell and was forced to give up her job as a researcher at Bristol University.
After moving around the city she decided to buy a converted horsebox, at a cost of £10,000, to ensure she could provide a roof over her head.
Her van no electric link up, no mains water supply and no toilet. But it does have a shower and cooking facilities and a system to heat water which she buys in.
Despite searching for a piece of land – and identifying one which could have been suitable – she says North Somerset Council failed to respond to her questions as where she could site the green converted horsebox she now calls home.
So she parked on the piece of common ground at Cleeve in 2008 – and has been there ever since.
The council, which does not own the land, has tried to remove Miss Hatfield on numerous occasions following pressure from local residents and Cleeve Parish Council.
Residents said the fact that the van was on the land caused other vehicles to park on Cleeve Hill Road.
People living nearby have also raised concern about the lack of sanitation and the fact there are no refuse collection or disposal facilities.
But because there was no identifiable owner of the land, no one could be prosecuted for failing to comply with enforcement action.
The council has used legislation from the Commons Act 2006 to remove Miss Hatfield from the site.
The act provides extensive powers to local authorities to act for the protection of common land in their district, allowing the council to act as if it was the owner.
Council prosecutor Emma Anderson said: "Various offers have been made to try and persuade Miss Hatfield to move elsewhere but for various reasons she has not done so.
"We have offered homelessness advice and alternative accommodation and offered to help towards the repair of the vehicles.
"We are not proposing to move her off immediately and will give her a fair period of time to help her make her arrangements."