Now travellers win yet another reprieve from Dale Farm eviction as judge rules council cannot throw them out

Monday, September 26, 2011

-Judge says travellers entitled to an extension until decision reached on legality of eviction
-Blow for Basildon Council who has spent £18million trying to clear site
-Travellers announce they are seeking a judicial review

By Daily Mail Reporter

Reacting to the news, resident Kathleen McCarthy, holding her one-year-old grand-daughter, said the ruling was 'another miracle'.

Dale Farm travellers today won yet another reprieve in their long-running battle to stay on the UK's biggest illegal travellers' site.

A judge ruled that residents of Dale Farm, near Basildon, in Essex were entitled to an extension of an injunction stopping their evictions until the courts have ruled on the legality of their proposed removal.

The ruling was a blow to Basildon Council, which is also facing other legal action that could prolong yet further its 10-year battle to clear the site, further adding to its rising costs which are expected to reach £18million.

Reacting to the news, resident Kathleen McCarthy, holding her one-year-old grand-daughter, said the ruling was 'another miracle'.

She said: 'Every day is a blessing and we feel that at least our arguments are being listened to.'

Children in their school uniforms (right) returning to the Dale Farm Site this afternoon

Travellers said they have more litigation in the pipeline which could further delay evictions.

They plan to seek a judicial review on the grounds that eviction is 'disproportionate' under human rights laws.

Last night the travellers' supporters called on Basildon Council representatives to 'return to the negotiating table', saying that continuing the action will only see costs spiral even further out of control.

Campaign group Dale Farm Solidarity said several high-profile figures had offered to mediate, including bishops Thomas McMahon and Stephen Cottrell, UN representatives and local MEP Richard Howitt.

Mrs McCarthy added after hearing the latest reprieve: 'One thing is certain: we will all stand together. Either we all go or none of us go, we will not let the council divide us.'

She added: 'We are still calling for the council to sit around the table and hold negotiations.

'It is costing the council money and there is still going to be a traveller site.

'We will resist the clearance and some of us could stay legally forever.

'This is in God's hands and who knows where it will end.'

There were loud cheers when she spoke about the possibility of council leader Tony Ball resigning.

Ms McCarthy added: 'We have no quarrels with the settled community. If they want to protest against us they can.

'We want to stay for another 30 years. We want to do what is legal and right.'

Battle of Basildon: Dale Farm residents including Mrs McCarthy (centre) pose outside at the High Court at a previous hearing, today travellers were given a reprieve

Kate O'Shea, from Dale Farm Solidarity, said: 'We call on Tony Ball (council leader) to return to the negotiation table.

'The situation at Dale Farm needs a sensible and common sense approach and we urge all parties to use this pause to find an amicable solution.

''The UN and two local bishops have offered to mediate any talks should this be required, and we urge Tony Ball to accept their offer.'

The Gypsy Council echoed the calls, saying it had become clear during Friday's hearing that the site would not necessarily be returned to open countryside even if the eviction went ahead.

A statement said: 'Pursuing this eviction would be a bad thing for both sides.'

Around 400 people on 51 plots at Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, were due to be moved by bailiffs on last Monday.

But a last-minute injunction was granted by the High Court in London after supporters of the travellers exploited a loophole involving the removal of structures not mentioned in an earlier court order.

The Travellers launched a series of extra legal challenges which will postpone a decision over an eviction to at least next week.

The authority was told by Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart that it had to specify what it wanted to do on each of the 51 unauthorised plots - which it has now done.

Travellers had also launched two legal actions - relating to questions about whether the council was acting in accordance with the terms of enforcement notices issued - and, secondly, calling for a review of the validity of the notices.

If the council was successful at today's hearing, clearing of the site could have started as early as tomorrow.

But reports from the court at lunch-time suggested a decision would not be made until next week 'at the earliest'.

This is because a judge was told more legal challenges were being launched as he considered whether to extend an injunction preventing the council from clearing the site.

In addition to last week's legal action, it emerged that at least two applications for judicial review were planned as part of the campaign to stop the evictions of travellers.

If they go ahead, the applications could add thousands of pounds more to the already huge legal bill generated by the Dale Farm saga.

Five sisters who live at Dale Farm donned identical short-sleeved blouses to show 'solidarity' at today's hearing.

The McCarthy sisters - Joanna, 38, Tina, 40, Margaret, 46, Kathleen, 50, and Marie, 55 - wore blue and pink floral-patterned tops as they sat in the front row of Court 4.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart congratulated the 'ladies for their lovely turnout' and added: 'It is very nice to see somebody brightening up the court.'

Bailiffs working for Basildon Council had planned to start the clearance of the six-acre site on Monday, but the operation - which is estimated to be costing more than £1 million per day -was postponed while the legal wrangling was resolved.

Council leader Tony Ball had said he was frustrated by the delay but added he was convinced the injunction would be overturned once the authority presented the full facts.

The clearance of Dale Farm follows a decade-long row over unauthorised pitches. There are 34 legal pitches on the neighbouring Oak Lane site.

Taking a stand: Travellers' children pose with their message 'We Love School, We Hate Eviction' after writing it on a blackboard at the entrance to Dale Farm settlemen

Confident: Dale Farm residents flash the 'Victory' sign as they prepare to leave for the High Court

Members of the International Expert Group Meeting on Forced Evictions, meeting at the UN Human Settlements Programme in headquarters in Nairobi, has written to the traveller community of Dale Farm expressing sympathy, it emerged last night.

The letter was signed by more than 30 representatives from different countries.

It said: 'Repressive policies targeting Gypsies and Travellers disguised as planning regulations are discriminatory, whilst inclusive national strategies that are in line with human rights standards generate real progress in addressing issues of exclusion and marginalisation.'

Lock down: Activists were this morning shutting the barricade of the main gate to Dale Farm

Some travellers had left the site last week in anticipation of the clearance but have returned this week in the hope they will be allowed to remain.

They upped sticks and set an illegal camp 55 miles away, leading residents to fear that many more were on their way.

Around 20 families moved from Essex to Stockwood Park, close to Luton in Bedfordshire, after gaining access to a 100-hectare piece of land.

Basildon Council has suggested a variety of temporary flats and houses over the past six months in an effort to resolve the decade-long stand-off.

But they were turned down for reasons including because they smelled of smoke or were made of bricks and mortar, 'contravening' the travellers' desire to spend their life on the road.

Fifty-one plots containing homes built without planning permission are set to be cleared from the six-acre site, along with their remaining residents, in an operation which could cost £18million


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