A FAMILY from Caldicot claim they have been subjected to a barrage of abusive and discriminatory comments online because of their traveller background.

Martin Flynn and his family applied to Monmouthshire County Council last month for a change-of-use planning permission on land they own near the village of Crick.

In recent days, however, the Flynns said they had been victims of a concerted opposition campaign against those plans, solely because they were travellers.

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Comments left on the council’s planning website had been co-ordinated, the Flynns claim,aid, by members of a local residents’ Facebook group.

On that group, members said they were “horrified” and expected the Flynns to turn their land into a “permanent Gypsy camp”.

“There’s so much prejudice, it’s unbelievable,” Mr Flynn said. “These people should be ashamed of themselves.”

Gwent Police are currently investigating Mr Flynn’s complaints as a possible hate crime, and said a “thorough investigation” would take place.

Monmouthshire council has also removed the planning application from its site following Mr Flynn’s complaints.

One objection on the planning site, from a Caerwent resident, said: “Totally object to anything relating to travellers. They don’t pay rent or council tax or respect

where they stay and others around them, therefore why should tax payers provide them with somewhere to stay for nothing…if they want to pay for where they stay, contribute to the community and not make a complete mess, then fine – but this doesn’t happen.”

Another Caerwent resident left an objection which said: “This will be completely out of character for our small community village, and will no doubt have knock on effect that all traveller sites do. They do not pay taxes, and have no respect for the area they live in.”

Mr Flynn called the co-ordinated campaign against his family a “vigilante group”.

“It’s sick, that’s the only way to put it,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of who I am, or of my roots, but I feel physically sick at all this.”

Mr Flynn said his family wanted to place two pre-built ‘park home’ bungalows on his small patch of land near Crick.

Objections to the proposals, he said, had only arrived once word had got round about his Traveller background.

A Gwent Police spokeswoman confirmed the force was currently making enquiries into Mr Flynn’s complaints of a hate crime were ongoing, and that officers were liaising directly with the family.

“Gwent Police takes all reports of hate crime seriously, when someone is targeted because of hostility or prejudice towards who they are or, a characteristic they have, a thorough investigation will take place,” she added. “We work closely with people who feel they have been the victim of such an incident and have a team of around 40 Hate Crime Support Officers (HCSOs) who have received additional training in supporting victims.

“We are also able to signpost to other organisation who may be able to offer additional support.”

Some of those organisations can be found on the Gwent Police website at www.gwent.police.uk/en/advice/advice/g-m-graffiti-modern-slavery/hate-crime/