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Travellers warn over car park move

Hundreds of people occupying the UK's biggest illegal traveller site would move to supermarket car parks if forced to leave, a High Court judge has been told.

A barrister representing travellers living at the Dale Farm site near Basildon, Essex, told Mr Justice Ouseley that such a move would mean "disruption".

Travellers have taken legal action in an attempt to stop Basildon Council evicting them from Dale Farm. They argue that eviction would be "disproportionate" because they would be left with nowhere to live.

The council has been battling for a decade to remove travellers from the site, which is in the green belt and thought to house around 400 people on about 50 pitches. Leaders say allowing travellers to stay without planning permission would send the "wrong signal" and strike "to the very principles of the rule of law".

Christopher Jacobs, for Dale Farm residents, told the judge: "Many of them would go to one or two supermarket car parks in the area with all the attendant disruption that would contain."

In written arguments handed to the judge, he added: "This occupation (of supermarket car parks) will be neither suitable nor lawful and the children concerned will be without adequate facilities." Mr Jacobs said "over 400 people, including over 100 children" would be left without "suitable accommodation" if the site was cleared.

Mr Jacobs said there was a chance that travellers could move to lawful sites and they were willing to do that. He argued that eviction should be temporarily halted - "stayed" - until the possibilities of travellers moving to lawful sites had been fully explored.

Planning permission was being pursued at two sites in the Basildon area and it was possible that alternative, lawful accommodation could be found for more than 50 families, said Mr Jacobs. He said waiting and allowing travellers to move would enable the Dale Farm dispute to come to a "peaceful conclusion".

Reuben Taylor, for Basildon Council, disagreed with Mr Jacobs' analysis: "(The argument) is allow more time for lawful sites to become available. He is challenging the decision not to stay the eviction. In my submission that is simply a ruse."

He said there had been two applications for lawful traveller sites in the Basildon area in the past eight years - one in Pitsea in 2007, which had been refused and a planned appeal withdrawn, and one in Laindon in 2011, which had also been refused and an appeal was pending.

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