Larry Doran’s four-year-old daughter is bouncing on his knee as he admits that, as travellers, the adults in his family have missed the boat when it comes to a good education.
“But why can’t our kids have the life we never had?” he asks. “If the council members’ children needed help they’d get it.”
Mr Doran and his family are in dispute with Croydon Council over their controversial decision to park upwards of eight caravans next to Hawkhirst Road in Croydon, and to claim the land.
Their application for planning permission to make it a permanent home has been turned down and is now being appealed. The Dorans say they want to settle and to be good neighbours.
In the middle of this are their children and young adults, 13 of them ranging in ages from four to 20, who they claim are unable to sign up to a school or a GP because they have no recognised permanent address.
“We are good people, not bad people,” says Mr Doran. “We respect the local community.”
In an interview with EastLondonLines, he says that he and the other adults in the family no longer care what happens to them: “It is the kids we worry about; they’re like prisoners in their own home.
“They have potential if the locals would take them, but the schools won’t let our kids join because we don’t have a permanent home.”
Although the Doran children are born and bred in Croydon, the family says they have been refused access to local schools because of the address problem.
The family moved into the field off of Hawkhirst Road nine months ago and submitted the planning application last year.
“We are happy to take all the necessary measures, to do whatever the council tells us,” Mr Doran says. “We are willing to pay our way; we are hard workers. We will do anything to give our kids the life we never had.”
The council says it is willing to listen. A spokesperson said: “All children have the right to access education and we would work with every family to identify appropriate school places.”
The council has refused the Dorans’ planning application and is attempting to evict the family from the site on the grounds that the field is in within the Metropolitan Green Belt and development there would be “detracting from its open character”.
Steve O’Connell, Kenley councillor and Greater London Authority member, told the Croydon Advertiser: “I would like it to be brought to a close as soon as possible. The site visit really drew my attention to how much a beautiful field has been devastated. It is heart breaking what has happened there.”
The council added: “The proposed change of use is detrimental to the interests of nature conservation and biodiversity. The application documents fail to demonstrate that the proposal would comply with standard highway visibility…requirements.
“Whilst the site is partially screened by trees along the frontage to Hawkhirst Road, the cluster of caravans and vehicles associated with the use can and would continue to be seen.”
In response, Mr Doran says: “We are prepared to plant more trees, make ourselves more hidden and do whatever to make the area look up to the council’s standards.”
Mr Doran claims that the family has spent years being moved to sites by council officers “every couple of days.”
“We have been to hell and back to just have a home,” he says. “My uncle went to Strasbourg in 1978 to try to fight for the travelling community. This has been going on for too long.”
Family members say attempts to register with GPs have failed because of their lack of a formal address.
One of the young women is twenty years old, pregnant and anaemic but says she is “too embarrassed” to return to the surgery she tried to join in Valley Park, as each time she is refused for not having a permanent home.
“We are all humans at the end of the day,” Mr Doran says.