Dale Farm evictees seek re-homing ruling


Travellers made homeless after being evicted from an illegal site are set to ask senior judges to rule that they have a right to be re-homed in caravans or offered pitches.

John Sheridan, Barbara O'Brien and Mary Flynn - who were living on the Dale Farm site near Basildon, Essex - are scheduled to seek a ruling from the Court of Appeal in London next month.

Their lawyers aim to argue that Basildon Council acted unreasonably in offering only conventional flats or houses as alternative accommodation.

A county court judge ruled in favour of the local authority following a hearing in Southend, Essex, in October 2010.

Travellers were today given permission to appeal against the county court ruling, following a preliminary appeal court hearing in London.

Alex Offer, for the three travellers, outlined arguments his clients wanted to make, at a hearing before Lord Justice Patten.

He said his clients had an "aversion" to living in "bricks and mortar" and would argue that local authorities had an "obligation" to provide "suitable" accommodation which would allow "members of the gypsy community" to continue their traditional way of life.

Lord Justice Patten granted the three travellers permission to appeal.

The court was told that appeal judges were scheduled to hear full arguments from both sides at a hearing in London starting on December 14.

Lawyers said afterwards that any appeal court ruling on the issue could affect other travellers and gypsies.

Earlier this week, Basildon Council said it had been granted a High Court order which would prevent the illegal traveller site at Dale Farm from being re-occupied.

Council leaders, who are overseeing a clearance operation at the six-acre site, started legal action in an attempt to stop evicted travellers returning.

The council began clearing the settlement in October, following a decade-long row over unauthorised traveller plots.

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

The council - and Government ministers responsible for planning - have consistently refused planning permission on the basis that development was inappropriate and would harm the character and appearance of green-belt land.

High Court and Appeal Court judges have backed the council after a number of legal challenges by travellers.