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Travellers hail latest reprieve

Residents of Dale Farm are celebrating another reprieve that has raised their hopes that they can remain living on the UK's biggest illegal travellers' site.

A High Court judge granted scores of families an extension to an injunction stopping their evictions until the courts have finally ruled on the legality of their proposed removal from the site near Basildon, Essex.

Two further court hearings are planned. The first will be on Thursday and concerns the latest traveller application for judicial review. The second will be next Monday when the legality of the eviction action itself will be examined.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, sitting in London, was told by the travellers' lawyers that at least two further applications for judicial review to block the evictions are also in the pipeline, which could further prolong Basildon Council's 10-year battle to clear the site at a cost of £18 million.

Candy Sheridan, vice chair of the Gypsy Council, said outside London's High Court she intended to make new applications on behalf of travellers for planning permission at Dale Farm.

But council leader Tony Ball said the authority hoped to start removing residential structures on site after Thursday's hearing.

He said: "Today was another day when the wheels of justice continue to grind slowly forward. It has been good day for the council and our local residents. We will be back in court on Thursday after which we fully hope to be in a position to commence removing residential structures from the vast majority of plots.

"Outstanding technical issues, such as fences and gateposts, will be dealt with separately next Monday. After 10 years, if we have to wait a few more days to follow due process and get things right then that is what we will do."

In the ruling, the judge agreed to extend an injunction he granted on Monday last week to prevent the council from clearing the site - thought to house more than 80 families composed of 400 individuals.

Reacting to the news, resident Kathleen McCarthy said: "Every day is a blessing and we feel that at least our arguments are being listened to. One thing is certain: we will all stand together. Either we all go or none of us go, we will not let the council divide us. We want to stay for another 30 years. We want to do what is legal and right."

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