Protesters told to leave churchyard in Essex

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Media captionThe Occupy Southend group says they are in for the long haul

Church leaders have told protesters camping in an Essex churchyard to go.

About 25 members of Occupy Southend pitched tents without permission in the grounds of St Mary the Virgin church in Prittlewell on Sunday afternoon.

They claimed to be there "for the long haul" but said they would continue talking to the Diocese of Chelmsford on whose land they were camping.

Now the diocese has told them to leave and the group will put this to the vote at the weekend, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chelmsford said it had been talking with the group over the past few days.

Essex Police and Southend Borough Council said it was up to the church to decide whether to take action to clear the site.

James Duddridge, the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, said while people had a right to protest it was "somewhat distasteful" to occupy a churchyard.

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