NEWS
31/08/2011 13:11 BST | Updated 31/10/2011 05:12 GMT

Dale Farm Travellers Lose High Court Bid To Block Eviction

Travellers facing eviction from the Dale Farm site near Basildon have lost a last-ditch legal bid to prevent the removal of their homes.

Basildon council plans to clear the more than 240 residents following a decade long planning dispute at midnight on Wednesday. Approximately 50 per cent of the six-acre site has been developed without planning permission, according to the local authorities.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the traveller community at the High Court had focused on the case of 72-year-old Mary Flynn who suffers breathing problems. They argued that it would be dangerous to move her given her fragile condition.

But the judge dismissed the application for an injunction that would have temporarily blocked Basildon Council from sending in the bailiffs.

The council have however undertaken to look at fresh medical evidence related to Flynn before attempting to move her.

The deadline for the travellers to leave the site runs out at midnight on Wednesday.

The eviction and the accompanying police operation are expected to cost the council an estimated £18 million.

One woman who lives on the site told Sky News that violent resistance was a possibility if the eviction attempt goes ahead.

"Who's going to walk out of their homes peacefully?," she said. "We dont want violence, thats the last straw because we've got too many sick people, but if it [the eviction] happens it's going to happen."

Essex police said they would "continue to monitor the situation" at the farm.

Yesterday supporters of the Dale Farm residents received a boost when actress and political activist Vanessa Redgrave visited the site.

The Unicef goodwill ambassador said she believed the eviction of the families would be illegal under international human rights conventions. She said she was "appalled that such an eviction can be upheld by our government".

Joseph Jones, the secretary of the Gypsy Council, told The Huffington Post UK that the council had turned a planning dispute in to "an issue of race".

But Councillor Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said those being evicted were being treated exactly the same way as any other citizen, and insisted the clearance had "absolutely nothing" to do with the travellers' "choice of lifestyle or background".

"The council has spent the last 10 years attempting to find a peaceful solution to the illegal site at Dale Farm. A forced clearance has always been a reluctant last resort for us, but the travellers have left us with little option after exhausting the legal process," he said.