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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 July 2006, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Tree-top eco-warriors must leave
Trees - generic
There are plans to build 875 homes on the woodland site
Protesters who built a tree-top village linked by aerial walkways in a Sussex woodland have been ordered to leave.

Landowner Clem Somerset applied to the High Court for possession of Titnore Wood which is to be sold to developers.

Senior Court Official Master Turner gave an order for possession, saying the protesters posed a risk of "serious harm to persons and property".

Campaigners vowed to appeal and resist efforts to move them. They want to save 210 trees on the site, near Worthing.

Developers have planned 875 new homes on land known as the Lake Rue.

The wood is designated as important for nature conservation, with oak, ash, birch and willow trees growing there.

'Squatters' rights'

The Protect Our Woodland group moved into the wood at the end of May and went on to build up to 20 tree houses.

They also put up notices claiming squatters' rights in the woodland.

Three of the eco-warriors, Jim Mutley, 25, Charlie Wells, 28, and Shaun Lewis, 40, an arborist and professional tree surgeon, represented their group in court.

They claimed they were engaged in a peaceful protest, there was no risk of a disturbance, and the group was there to defend the woods.

But the court ruled the group were unlawful occupants, there was a risk of public disturbance and also danger to people and property.

Mr Somerset and his father, Fitzroy, who recently transferred the land to his son, claimed the Lake Rue site was not actually part of the wood.

Ancient forest

After the hearing, one campaigner at the tree-top village, who did not give a name, said: "We will take whatever legal means are available to us to make sure that we are victorious.

"There are some people who are prepared to stay here right through winter."

Hollis, 22, said they had strong support in the local community and people had donated food, clothes and money.

And another campaigner, called Hazel, said: "This is the last stretch of ancient forest on the southern coastal plain."

She said wildlife species in the woods included crested newts, dormice and butterflies that would be killed off by the development.

Treehouse protest to save woods
29 May 06 |  Southern Counties

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