Basildon Council fears return of Dale Farm travellers


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The Independent Online

Travellers are threatening to return to an "infamous" illegal settlement once workers have finished clearing the site, a High Court judge was told today.

Lawyers representing a local authority overseeing a clearance operation want a court order preventing travellers from re-occupying green-belt land at Dale Farm near Basildon, Essex.

Reuben Taylor, for Basildon Council, told a judge sitting in London travellers had told contractors clearing the site that they aimed to return.

Mr Justice Langstaff said he wanted more detailed evidence of threats of re-occupation before granting any injunction and adjourned the hearing until Monday.

The council began clearing the illegal six-acre Dale Farm settlement last month following a decade-long row over unauthorised traveller plots on the site.

Contractors started clearing caravans and hard-standing after a major police operation to remove protesters.

Mr Taylor told the judge the council was seeking an injunction, under planning legislation, prohibiting residential use of the site and the siting of caravans or formation of hard-standing.

He said travellers evicted from Dale Farm - which had become "infamous" - had moved to a nearby legal traveller site and told staff involved in the clearance that they would return once workers had gone.

"It is simply that the contractors are coming towards the end of their operation. They will leave the site very shortly," Mr Taylor told the judge.

"Officers have been informed by the former residents of the site that they intend to come back on the land."

He added: "They have been saying to officials from the council, who have been on the site clearing hard-standing, that they intend to move back on to the site that has been cleared as soon as contractors leave."

Mr Taylor said the council wanted a court injunction to prevent that happening.

He outlined the history of the site and said the council - and Government ministers responsible for planning - had consistently refused planning permission on the basis that development was inappropriate and would harm the character and appearance of greenbelt land.

Mr Taylor said High Court and appeal court judges had backed the council after legal challenges by travellers.

Mr Justice Langstaff told Mr Taylor: "I am sympathetic in general terms to the application you are making but it needs to be properly founded on evidence."

He suggested that the council should return to court on Monday with "details of who said what to whom".

The judge said he would adjourn the hearing without making any "determination" until Monday.