travellers could set up camps on farms or forest land owned by the Church of England as part of its £800billion wealth fund. Pic: Friends Families and Travellers

Churches are being urged to forgive those who trespass – and offer their land to travellers so they can set up official campsites.

The proposal could lead to new sites in fields or other land close to Anglican churches, or travellers could set up camps on farms or forest land owned by the Church of England as part of its £800billion wealth fund.

The recommendation in a Church of England report comes after travellers have faced a wave of accusations of trespassing when they set up temporary homes in communities around the country,

The report, drawn up by C of E minority concerns adviser Dr Elizabeth Henry, said the Church had previously shown ‘institutional racism’ towards travellers.

It accused clergy of refusing to conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals. It also claimed that parishes had tried to block traveller families gaining planning permission to live on their own land.

The document, prepared for the Church’s governing body the General Synod and backed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, even accused parishes of cutting off supplies to taps to prevent travellers entering graveyards for water. The report said travellers had suffered ‘extreme levels of hostility’ in society. It insisted: ‘Churches too have been part of this institutional racism in their failure to welcome gipsies and travellers into the full life of their communities.

‘There is much anecdotal evidence of people being refused baptism, weddings and funerals and such things as churches cutting off the outside tap for the graveyard.’

If the proposals are accepted by the Synod, which meets later this month, individual churches and national C of E institutions – which own large swathes of farm, forest and development land – will be told to offer areas to housing associations for use as traveller sites.

The report, which talks of ‘centuries of marginalisation’, said the C of E should set up a commission to find sites for travellers. It also pressed for every C of E diocese to appoint a chaplain for them.

© Daily Mail