Travellers get extension on illegal UK site

23rd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Residents facing immediate eviction from Britain's largest illegal travellers' camp were told by a High Court judge Friday they could stay on the site for at least another three days.

Bailiffs acting for the Basildon Council local authority had been set to move in on Monday and clear the sprawling Dale Farm site in Essex, southeast England, following a 10-year legal battle.

However, the Irish traveller families won a last-minute injunction pending a second hearing Friday at the High Court in London, where a judge said he needed more time to consider the case.

Judge Antony Edwards-Stuart will now decide whether the injunction should be continued further and said he hoped to give his verdict on Monday.

"This is a very difficult area and I can quite assure everyone I am giving it the most anxious consideration," he said.

The ethnic Irish travellers own the 51 plots on the six-acre (2.4 hectare) site but lack planning permission to build on the land.

There are 34 legal pitches on a neighbouring site.

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball told reporters outside the High Court: "I am personally somewhat disappointed, but I understand (the judge) feels he needs to see justice is done.

"After 10 years, if it means just a few more days then it's worth it.

"The public, the travellers and the council need a resoluton to this. I think the judge is minded to take this into account.

"So with that, we're back on Monday and I look forward to his decision."

The council has set aside £18 million ($27.8 million, 20.6 million euros) for the clearance.

The high-profile campaign to block the eviction has attracted support from Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and has sparked debate about the treatment of the nomadic, largely ethnic Irish traveller communities in Britain.

Separate from Friday's hearing, the residents are applying for permission to seek a judicial review.

It is understood the application will be brought on the grounds that the whole eviction process is "disproportionate".

Meanwhile the Dale Farm Solidarity Network, a group of activists helping the travellers fight eviction, is about to lodge another judicial review bid on the grounds that they have property there -- namely a tent and a scaffolding observation tower.

Traveller Kathleen McCarthy said outside the court: "After 10 long years we've finally got a judge that is seeing both sides."

© 2011 AFP

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