A notorious family of travellers are holding villages to ransom by buying land cheap and threatening to build homes without planning permission unless locals buy the plots back for vastly inflated sums.
The Doran clan hit the headlines earlier this year after they wreaked havoc across New Zealand before being deported back to Britain.
Now residents in historic villages fear their tranquillity will be shattered by the very same brand of mayhem unless they pay up.
The first to be targeted was the quaintly-named Dough Bank, which nestles in the heart of the Severn Valley in Worcestershire.
The Dorans paid £9,000 for a tennis court-size piece of land in the village, then demanded more than £600,000 to return it and leave.
Calling for cash: The Dorans have snapped up land in Worcestershire but want £600,000 to leave
Challenge: Residents claim they face violence if they so much as try to challenge the Dorans over their behaviour
Building a new life: The family say they are looking to build a home and have bought the land legally
Causing chaos: The family were deported back to Britain following the problems they caused in New Zealand
Soon after buying the plot, which they named Pleasure View, more than 20 members of the family had moved their caravans, 4x4s and building machinery on to the site, often blocking the narrow lanes.
Locals claim the clan members threatened violence against anyone who challenged them.
One Dough Bank resident said: ‘Family members would take it in turns to urinate, or worse, in people’s driveways. They turned their site, which was once beautiful, unspoilt woodland, into an eyesore. They built 10ft high breeze block walls, which the council made them take down, and dumped hundreds of tons of rubble in heaps everywhere.’
Patrick Doran told villagers the family would move out – on the condition that locals bought the land from them for £600,000. He posted letters through the doors of the 22 households warning them he would sell the land to another member of the traveller community if they failed to stump up the cash.
Locals refused to pay. One told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We won’t be held to ransom by him.’
Eyesore site: Neighbours have complained the beautiful site has been ruined and also about the behaviour of the family
Tensions are high: Residents have so far refused to buy the plot for the increased price
Meanwhile, eight miles away, the villagers of Astley – which is listed in the Domesday Book and was once the home of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin – found themselves at the centre of a similar battle.
The Dorans bought a quarter- acre plot in Astley Burf for just £12,000 from an elderly couple. Five weeks ago Lawrence Doran told residents he intended to build a five-bed house on it, even though locals believe it is highly unlikely the local authority, Malvern Hills District Council, would give planning permission.
One Astley Burf villager said: ‘A few days later, he and other members of his family rocked up with bulldozers and earth-scrapers and punched a hole straight through the hedgerow into the plot of land to gain access, then flattened everything. It looked like a battlefield.’
Locals claim the Dorans have been lighting huge bonfires on the plot, throwing in aerosol canisters that explode, and in recent weeks inexplicable scratches have appeared on villagers’ cars.
Lawrence Doran has told residents he would be happy to leave Astley Burf if they bought the land back for around £100,000.
Villagers have set up a crowdfunding site, which has so far received pledges of more than half that sum and a chartered surveyor, David Banks, has been appointed to act as land agent on behalf of locals to try to reach a settlement with the Dorans.
A villager said: ‘If the Dorans stay, they’ll wipe £100,000 in value off a £500,000 property here, so we’ve got no option but to give in to what amounts to blackmail. They’ve got us over a barrel and they know it.’
Discriminated: Patrick Doran claimed they were being treated differently because they are from the travelling community
Battle over land: Some residents say the Dorans have them ‘over a barrel’ over the parcel of land
Fight over a site: The patch of land bought by the Dorans which they are trying to sell on to residents in the area
Last night, Patrick Doran said: ‘We bought these plots in good faith. I just want to build a home for my family. What’s wrong with that? Everything has been done legally, fair and square. We’re being discriminated against because we’re from the travelling community. People treat us like animals.’
Members of the Doran clan were deported from New Zealand in January after allegedly threatening locals, refusing to pay for restaurant meals and leaving vast amounts of litter on beaches.
An application for permission to put a caravan at the Dorans’ Pleasure View in Dough Bank was submitted to Wychavon Council by Patrick Doran in January this year. The application is for ‘change of use of land to use as a residential caravan site for one gipsy family, including laying of hardstanding, erection of amenity building and improvement of access’. The decision is currently ‘pending’.