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Further delay over Dale Farm as wheels of justice “grind slowly forward”

27 September 2011

Further delays have hit Basildon council’s attempt to remove a traveller site from green belt land after a High Court judge found that there were “triable issues” and extended an injunction blocking the evictions. The council has been trying for more than ten years to clear more than 50 plots, which lack planning permission, from the land.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said there was no dispute that the enforcement notices were valid and that all remedies available to the residents by way of planning control had been exhausted.

However, he said the residents feared that the council would move onto the site and demolish and/or remove all the hard standing, apart from those on six of the plots and a section of road, and all the buildings, walls, fences and gates “whether or not such extensive measures are justified by the terms of the enforcement notices”.

Edwards-Stuart J went on: “They contend that the council has refused to explain, on a plot by plot basis, exactly what it proposes to do and that this refusal has fuelled their fears that what the council is planning to do goes well beyond the steps that the enforcement notices entitle it to take.”

He decided that the council could not, under Section 178 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, demolish buildings or structures that had been erected unlawfully before the issue of the enforcement notice, but were not mentioned in it.

He said it was up to those residents who claimed that those buildings were constructed prior to the notice to prove it.

Edwards-Stuart J said there were also triable issues as to which walls, fences and gates were present and amounted to a breach of planning control at the time of issue of the relevant planning notices.

The judge identified further issues relating to the ‘chalets’ owned by the residents, which were actually twin-unit caravans, but apparently too large to come within the meaning of the Caravan Sites Act 1968.

In a further move, the residents launched a separate judicial review last week, despite losing a previous one at the Court of Appeal in 2009. Their application will be heard on Thursday this week.

Councillor Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said after yesterday’s High Court ruling that “today was another day when the wheels of justice continued to grind slowly forward”.

He went on: “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.

“As I began by saying the wheels of justice are grinding slowly forward, the judge made it clear from the outset that such was the importance of this case that justice needed to be seen to be done.

“After ten 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."

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