Tepee village fight goes to court

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A HIPPY community's 15-year battle to avoid being broken up by planning officials reached the High Court yesterday.

Since 1984, hundreds of New Age travellers, environmentalists and former homeless people have been campaigning for the right to continue living in a Red Indian-style tepee village near Carmarthen, west Wales.

"Tepee Valley", at Penlan Fach, Llanfynydd, has been described as the oldest and largest alternative community in Britain. Its residents, who have included former company directors, ex-farm workers and a practising Anglican minister, grow most of their own food and have fertilised the soil using their own sewage.

But locals have long complained of poor sanitation, disease, dogs worrying sheep and a threat to property prices. In 1984 Dinefwr District Council began moves to evict the villagers, arguing that they had not gone through appropriate planning procedures in erecting the first tents in 1976.

The New Agers appealed, however, and managed to delay eviction for so long that one of them is now claiming that he has the right, under the Town and Country Planning Act, to live on the land, having been settled there for more than 10 years.

Yesterday Brig Oubridge, who has lived in Tepee Valley since 1979, appeared at the High Court in a test case for the whole village. Alan Masters, representing Mr Oubridge, told the court his client had photographic evidence that his home had been in the village for more than 10 years. Although the tepees were occasionally moved around, this did not amount to the change of land use that council officials claim invalidates Mr Oubridge's claim.

Outside court Mr Oubridge said: "Some families have been in Tepee Valley for three generations. Most of us are just trying to survive and provide a home for our children."

The case continues today.