Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 11:21 UK

Travellers win reprieve at court

Travelling caravan
The judge told the travellers they cannot stay on the sites permanently

Gypsies and travellers illegally camped on sites in Essex have won a High Court fight to stop immediate eviction.

More than 40 families at the Dale Farm in Billericay and at Hovefields in Wickford, fought eviction plans by Basildon District Council.

Mr Justice Collins said the eviction order cannot stand and he ordered more time to investigate concerns on the needs and welfare of the families.

However, the judge warned the families they could not remain on the site.

Mr Justice Collins said he was aware he might cause controversy, and that he was conscious the council might criticise his decision to delay judgement.

'Insoluble problem'

The case concerns travellers and Gypsies living on about 63 plots at Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Billericay, and on Five Acres Farm and nearby land north of Hovefields Drive, Wickford.

Attempts to remove them, involving the issuing of enforcement notices, have been going on for several years.

Last December, the council decided to use section 178 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to enter the land and enforce compliance with the orders.

The judge said there could be no doubt the families could not remain where they were and the time must come when they would have to leave, "whether voluntarily or by means of forcible eviction."

"I think that the approach has been that the sites should be cleared, rather than a consideration of whether there are any individual families whose circumstances are such that in their individual cases eviction would be disproportionate," he said.

The judge gave the council permission to appeal against his decision, saying the case raised "important points" over what appeared to be the "insoluble problem" of providing sites for Gypsies and travellers.

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