Travellers wait on UK court eviction ruling

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Residents and activists at Britain's largest illegal travellers' camp were waiting for a court ruling on Friday that could finally see them evicted after a 10-year fight.

Bailiffs acting for the Basildon Council local authority in Essex, southeast England, were set to move in and clear the sprawling Dale Farm site on Monday.

However, the Irish traveller families won a last-minute injunction pending Friday's second hearing at the High Court in London, at which the council will put their side of the argument.

Although they secured a delay, the travellers were ordered in the injunction to dismantle a make-shift gate of planks, boards and scaffolding blocking access to the site.

Since it was opened, many families who had left the site have returned with their caravans.

Basildon Council has fought a 10-year battle with the ethnic Irish travellers, who own the 51 plots on the six-acre (2.4 hectare) site but lack planning permission to build on it.

There are 34 legal pitches on the neighbouring Oak Lane site.

Council leader Tony Ball told reporters outside the High Court that he was optimistic about the hearing.

"We believe that we've answered the points that the travellers have put forward and the court wanted clarity on, and so I'm confident that we'll be able to get the injunction lifted today," he said.

He insisted the travellers would not be forced onto the street, saying the council had offered them "bricks and mortar" homes, but added: "The public, the travellers and certainly the council needs to see a resolution to this."

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

Nora Sheridan, who lives on Dale Farm, said before the hearing: "We're just keeping our fingers crossed -- praying for a good result. We don't know what's going to happen."

The BBC reported that the Gypsy Council, which represents the travellers, would launch a second action at the High Court on Friday asking for more time to resolve the situation.

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.

© 2011 AFP

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