Basildon Council’s operation to clear the illegal settlement at Dale Farm has been temporarily held up by a number of legal challenges which have been brought on behalf of the travellers currently living on the site.
Cllr Tony Ball has said that the wheels of justice are grinding slowly forward but clearly indicated that the council is making good progress. The following sets out where exactly how far the council has progressed ahead of its next appearance in the High Court on Thursday 29 September.
This is the main injunction which halted the clearance operation at the last moment on Monday 19 September. It related to the detail around what was to be enforced and how that should be carried out. It did not relate to the question of whether the action should actually go ahead – this was not in dispute.
The judge has now determined the majority of this claim in the councils favour. What remains to be determined on Monday are a number of technical issues involving the removal of fences, the exact definition of four caravans and whether we can enforce against buildings on two of the 54 plots – the remainder having already been conceded by the lawyers for the travellers.
These are technical points and it is hoped they will be resolved at the hearing on Monday.
The injunction in this regard is in place till 18.00 on Monday and only in respect of these technical issues above.
However, mindful of the other Judicial Review (JR) applications to be heard on Thursday the judge retained the whole injunction until 4.30 on Thursday. After that the judge hearing the two JRs on Thursday will determine the next course of action.
Case II & III
The other two Judicial Reviews (JRs) go more to the principal of enforcement on which we remain confident of a favourable outcome.
The first focuses on the proportionality of taking direct action on a housing matter under planning legislation – if this were to be allowed it would by implication mean that enforcement action could never be taken in green belt or indeed any other planning matter involving a home.
The second judicial review is based on two planning applications for traveller sites at different locations in the borough. These sites total 22 pitches and if successful ‘could’ provide alternative accommodation for some of the residents of Dale Farm.
One application was considered on its merits and refused in August. An appeal on that decision is due to be heard on 22 November. The other application has not yet been properly submitted. Both involve land which the travellers do not own.
We are hopeful that the injunction will be lifted at 4.30 on Thursday and that this will clear the way for the council to commence its enforcement action on the majority of the site.
However bearing in mind the stakes involved the council would expect a further appeal to the court of appeal being lodged against the judgement in one or both of the JRs and this could have the effect of delaying further action until after the weekend.