Eco-warrior, 15, pledges to fight on underground

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGE eco-warrior has pledged to fight on after failing in a High Court battle yesterday, against eviction from woodland that is earmarked for building luxury homes.

Christiana Tugwell, 15, who sleeps rough at a protest camp, said she and other environmental campaigners were now ready to go underground to save the woods near her home at Hockley, Essex, from the developers. Sporting dreadlocks, boots, jeans and a baggy cardigan, Christiana, who recently had an operation for thyroid cancer, said: "We have a serious tunnel network, and I shall be down there."

Her mother, Maria, with her at the High Court in London, said of the judge's ruling: "I am disappointed. My daughter is determined to stay where she is. I would have preferred to have done everything legally."

Christiana left school at 11 and has since been educated at home by her mother, a teacher, and has already gained an A-level in English and three GCSEs in history, English language and English literature.

She and a small band of fellow school-age environmentalists, backed by more seasoned campaigners, have spent the past five months fighting proposals being put forward by the developer Countryside Residential, to build detached houses on 11 acres of wood and scrubland. They have received support at their protest camp from other residents who say they want to save the wood and the wildlife it contains.

Christiana launched a High Court appeal yesterday against an order granted to Countryside Residential last month, giving it possession of the wood. Her counsel, Matthew Hutchings, said the land was owned by private plot- holders and Rochford District Council, while Countryside Residential only had permission to carry out site surveys. As it had no right to possession or occupation, it was not entitled to an order for the eviction of trespassers, said Mr Hutchings.

But Sir Oliver Popplewell, sitting as a High Court judge, disagreed and ruled: "The right to carry out a survey and technical investigation carries with it a right to possession of the land where the surveys and investigations are likely to take place."

Christiana, who had been given legal aid, was refused leave to appeal. The judge said her case was "wholly devoid of merit - no more public money should be spent on this". But her solicitor, Richard Buxton, said a plea to the Court of Appeal was under consideration.

Countryside Residential said it had been careful to preserve wildlife on the site, employing ecologists to do surveys and spending tens of thousands of pounds protecting animal and plant life.