Basildon Council wins travellers court order

 

A local authority today said it had been granted a High Court order which would prevent an "infamous" illegal traveller site being reoccupied.

Lawyers representing the local authority overseeing a clearance operation of the Dale Farm site near Basildon, Essex, started legal action last week in an attempt to stop travellers returning.

Basildon Council said a judge sitting in London had today granted an injunction. Court officials said the order was made Mr Justice MacDuff.

"We believed that some previous residents of Dale Farm planned to illegally reoccupy the site," said council leader Tony Ball.

"The injunction will put them in contempt of court for doing this, which could result in a prison sentence."

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.

At a High Court hearing in London on Friday, the council told a judge that travellers had told contractors clearing the green-belt site that they aimed to return.

On Friday, Reuben Taylor, for the council, told Mr Justice Langstaff that 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.

Mr Justice Langstaff said he was "sympathetic" but wanted more detailed evidence of threats of reoccupation before granting any injunction.

Mr Taylor told the court that 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 green-belt land.

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

PA

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