CAMPAIGNERS fear a unique community which has supported people with disabilities for more than 60 years could be destroyed by proposed changes.

Villagers living in Botton, near Whitby, handed over a petition urging North Yorkshire County Council and Malton-based Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to let them continue to share their homes with the volunteer co-workers who live and work alongside them.

A peaceful protest was held outside the CVT’s offices and Kingfisher café in Saville Street, which was closed for the day.

Members of Action for Botton claim CVT, which runs the community, is planning to move villagers from their homes, without their agreement, specifically in order to separate them from their co-worker families who have been told they would have to accept paid employment or be forced to leave the community.

Neil Davidson, chairman of Action for Botton, said the changes would destroy the unique 60-year-old Botton community by forcing the vocational co-workers to either become hourly paid, shift working employees living separately from villagers or face eviction from their homes.

“The changes also mean that the learning-disabled villagers who had chosen to live in a family-like setting with the comfort and reassurance of co-worker house-parents, will instead be forced to live isolated lives completely segregated from the able-bodied,” he said.

“The villagers who have signed the petition represent an overwhelming 80 per cent of those in Botton and we urge CVT and North Yorkshire County Council to now take their views into account.

“In CVT’s jargon the villagers are described as ‘pws’ – people we support – and so we are calling on CVT to do just that, take their opinions into account and cancel these plans.”

A spokesman for CVT said: “Camphill Village Trust has no plans to move people we support in Botton in the immediate future, unless they express a desire to do so.

“Our focus is to make sure that people with learning disabilities and their families get the support they need at this time of change.”