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Travellers in call for new talks

Supporters of residents from the UK's largest illegal travellers' site have called for the council pressing for their eviction to "return to the negotiating table".

On Friday residents at Dale Farm in Essex were given another stay of execution when a judge continued an existing injunction until 4pm tomorrow to prevent Basildon Council from clearing the site.

But groups supporting the travellers have urged Basildon Council to return to the negotiating table, saying to continue the action will only see costs spiral even further out of control.

Council officials said the site - thought to be home to around 400 travellers - contains about 50 illegal pitches. They say the clearance operation will already cost the taxpayers around £18 million.

Campaign group Dale Farm Solidarity called for a "common-sense approach", saying pursuing an eviction would be a win for no-one, and a partial eviction would be a devastating outcome for families and cash-strapped local services.

It said several high-profile figures had offered to mediate, including Bishops Thomas McMahon and Stephen Cottrell, UN representations, and local MEP Richard Howitt.

Kate O'Shea, from Dale Farm Solidarity, said: "We call on Tony Ball (council leader) to return to the negotiation table.

"The situation at Dale Farm needs a sensible and common-sense approach, and we urge all parties to use this pause to find an amicable solution.

"The UN and two local bishops have offered to mediate any talks should this be required, and we urge Tony Ball to accept their offer."

The Gypsy Council echoed the calls, saying it had become clear during Friday's hearing that the site would not necessarily be returned to open countryside, even if the eviction went ahead.

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