Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Site clearance 'sooner than later'

A resident of Dale Farm, the UK's largest illegal travellers' site, outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Basildon council leader Tony Ball, centre, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, after a failed appeal by residents of Dale Farm
The entrance to Dale Farm, the UK's largest illegal travellers' site, near Basildon, Essex

Clearance of the UK's largest travellers' site will start "sooner rather than later", Basildon Council has said.

The residents of Dale Farm lost their High Court battle against eviction after trying to block their removal from the controversial site near Basildon, Essex, in three linked applications for judicial review.

The ruling on Wednesday was a victory for Basildon Council chiefs who fought a costly 10-year campaign to clear the site.

Traveller lawyers argued the council's decision earlier this year to take direct action to clear the green belt site of 400 residents, including about 100 children, was in breach of their human rights and unreasonable.

They also said there had been a failure to offer residents suitable alternative accommodation and to take account of vulnerable residents.

But Mr Justice Ouseley ruled they had delayed too long in challenging the council's decision to take direct action against them, and ruled the council's actions were not "disproportionate".

Basildon Council said no steps would be taken to clear the site before Monday.

Leader councillor Tony Ball said it would take some time to put resources that had been "stood down" back in place to complete the clearance safely.

He said they were mindful that the operation had to be carried out in a "safe and dignified manner", adding: "In order for that to happen we cannot cut any corners in our planning for what is still likely to be a particularly difficult operation, especially as the travellers and their supporters are yet again promising to resist.

"So to reiterate, I cannot say when the operation will take place, it will happen when it is safe to do so but it will be sooner rather than later."

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