Families who celebrated a last-gasp reprieve which prevented their eviction from a travellers' site at Dale Farm in Essex on Monday have been warned they will be hit with a bill for the costs of the delay, should the temporary injunction be cancelled at a second hearing on Friday.
A High Court judge ordered that the eviction should be put back while the council clarified what it intended to do with each of the 51 illegal pitches on the site. Lawyers for the residents agreed in court to be liable for any costs.
It is thought that a reduced contingent of bailiffs will remain on site, while Basildon Council will have to pay for security teams to patrol the wider area, as well as paying its own legal costs. A source said council officials were pessimistic about their chances of recouping costs from the travellers but insisted they would certainly pursue them through the courts for the money.
Supporters of the Dale Farm residents claimed the council is spending up to £1.2m per day to keep its operation running, but a council spokesman said he "did not recognise that figure".
"There is no way the residents will be able to pay out the kinds of sums that are likely to be demanded," said a spokesman for the supporters camped at Dale Farm.
He added: "For [the council] to attempt to blame the residents is just absurd, when the reason the injunction was granted was because they were unclear on what they were going to do once they got on to Dale Farm. It is because of their overzealous attempt to bulldoze the entire site that we are having this delay."
The council leader, Tony Ball, said he was frustrated by the delay but confident that the ruling would be overturned once the authority was given an opportunity to present its side of the story to the court on Friday.
Residents said yesterday that they would re-open a barricaded front gate to allow any of their neighbours, who had left in anticipation of the bailiffs moving in, to return. They also said they would allow a planning inspector on to the site but insisted that the gate itself, the object of safety concerns, will remain in place.
A leading campaigner, Grattan Puxon, said: "The gate stays, although we will look at building a side gate to allow a council officer access. The remaining issue is what is a touring caravan – which they can remove – and what is a static home, which they can't. There is also an ongoing argument over hard standings laid by the council when it was a scrapyard, which we say should remain."
A spokesman for the council confirmed that it would not seek to clear buildings from that part of the site which was formerly a scrapyard, but Mr Ball called on residents to "discourage any further protest from non-Dale Farm residents and to dismantle the barricades".
Council officials delivered documents to residents yesterday, explaining what action it would take during the eviction and when it was planned. A spokesman said that, should the injunction be overturned, bailiffs could move in as early as Saturday.Reuse content