Essex

Dale Farm eviction: Judge refuses residents' legal bid

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Media captionCampaigner Jake Fulton said the residents would continue to resist eviction

Residents at the UK's largest travellers' site have lost a High Court challenge to halt their eviction.

The group from Dale Farm in Essex had tried to stop the process with three applications for judicial review.

But Mr Justice Ouseley has refused all three saying it was "astonishing" that residents had delayed their legal action almost to the day of eviction.

The travellers have been fighting eviction for 10 years but have said they will lodge a further appeal.

'Serious disrepute'

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled they had delayed too long in challenging Basildon Council's decision to take direct action against them.

He also ruled the council's actions were not "disproportionate" and travellers were breaking criminal law on a daily basis by remaining on the site.

Their removal was necessary to avoid "the criminal law and the planning system being brought into serious disrepute", he added.

Councillor Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, welcomed the ruling: "This is not a day for triumphalism, but I do take quiet satisfaction on behalf of local people that in all matters the council has been found to have acted lawfully.

"We were criticised for a number of shortcomings but the judge made it clear that these were trumped by a need to enforce the criminal law.

"I strongly urge the travellers not to return to the path of unlawful resistance."

He said it was "too early yet to say exactly when the site clearance will begin".

'Human rights breach'

Dale Farm is on greenbelt land and is thought to currently house about 400 people on 49 illegal pitches.

Travellers own the site but do not have planning permission for the plots, which cover about half of Dale Farm.

Image caption Illegal pitches, to the left of the red line, are at the centre of the dispute over Dale Farm

Basildon Council brought in bailiffs to clear the site on 19 September but had to stop the process when lawyers for the travellers obtained a High Court injunction.

The travellers' lawyers had argued the council's decision to take direct action to clear the site of 400 residents, including about 100 children, was in breach of their human rights and unreasonable.

They also argued there had been a failure to offer suitable alternative accommodation and to take account of vulnerable residents.

Dismissing all the arguments, the judge observed they had been properly taken into account in many legal actions over the years.

'Too distraught'

He refused the travellers permission to appeal, but those in court said they would ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear their case.

The travellers have been supported by protesters who established their own camp, Camp Constant, at Dale Farm and pledged to help the residents resist the bailiffs.

Dale Farm Solidarity member Jake Fulton addressed the media outside Dale Farm, saying the families were "too distraught" to speak.

"People are already flooding back, both travellers and supporters," he said.

Image caption Protesters and campaigners gathered at Dale Farm in September

"We are expecting a big swell over the next couple of days and we'll be ready for when they come."

"We will be here for them and we'll have to rely on the physical defences now that the legal ones have failed us."

Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy said: "They talk about us being criminals. But if we're evicted we'll be forced to break the law again because we'll have no option but to stop on the roadside or in supermarket car parks.

"Where's the sense in that?"

Basildon Council said no steps would be taken to clear the site before Monday, giving the travellers a small window of opportunity to launch their appeal.

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