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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Gypsies stay despite eviction bid
Gypsies have been allowed to stay on a field in Wiltshire, despite a legal battle to evict them.

The 56-strong group bought the three-acre site in Minety last August.

North Wiltshire District Council applied for an eviction order after they moved in and made changes without planning permission.

But the council was told by a High Court judge in Bristol the gypsies could stay until after a public planning inquiry next February.

The gypsies dug trenches to carry electricity cables and water pipes and bulldozed through hedges so cars could access the site.

They have driven a caravan and horses through the planning rules
Coun Doreen Darby

Residents complained to the council, claiming house prices in the village had fallen by up to 40%.

The council applied for a High Court injunction to evict the gypsies but was told the travellers must apply for planning permission before the injunction could be granted.

The council then rejected the planning application by the gypsies and the group appealed to the High Court.

Judge John Weeks QC, sitting at Bristol High Court on Monday, was told that many of the travellers suffered from health and educational problems.

"There is clearly a strong public interest in upholding planning laws and there has been a flagrant and deliberate breach of planning control," he said.

Precedent fears

He added: "However, the immediate hardship and suffering which will be felt from the order sought is sufficient to outweigh the public interest in enforcing it."

Councillor Doreen Darby, deputy leader at the council, warned the expensive court battle could set a "dangerous precedent".

"If this case is lost, every single rural area in the country is under threat as gypsies will be able to buy land and move in like they have done in Minety," she said.

"They have driven a caravan and horses through the planning rules."

Gypsy Council representative Maggie Smith-Bendell said all the travellers wanted was to own their own land.

"Without a permanent address you can't get things like a bank account, mortgage, education for your children and hospital appointments," she said.

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