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12 October 2011, 10:04
Residents of Dale Farm, the UK's largest illegal travellers' site at Crays Hill near Basildon have lost their High Court battle against eviction - but are now planning an appeal.
They attempted to block their removal from the controversial site in three linked applications for judicial review.
Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, ruled on Wednesday they had delayed too long in challenging Basildon Council's decision to take direct action against them.
The judge also ruled the council's actions were not "disproportionate".
He said the travellers were breaking criminal law on a daily basis by remaining on the site and their removal was necessary to avoid "the criminal law and the planning system being brought into serious disrepute."
The ruling was a victory for Basildon Council chiefs who have fought a costly 10-year campaign to clear the site.
Traveller lawyers had argued the council's decision earlier this year to take direct action to clear the green belt site of 400 residents, including about 100 children, was in breach of their human rights and unreasonable.
They also argued there had been a failure to offer residents suitable alternative accommodation and to take account of vulnerable residents, including the sick in need of regular medication and children whose schooling would be disrupted if families were evicted.
Dismissing all the arguments, the judge observed they had been properly taken into account in many legal actions over the years.
The judge said he recognised that the removal of the travellers was going to cause "considerable distress and disruption - but in my judgment the time has manifestly come for steps to enforce the law to be taken".
The judge refused the travellers permission to appeal, but those in court said they would ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear their case.
Basildon Council said no steps would be taken to clear the site before Monday, giving the travellers a small window of opportunity to launch their appeal.
Candy Sheridan, vice-chair of the Gypsy Council, said: "We are disappointed. We are not surprised but the fight goes on. We will be seeking permission to appeal."
Travellers at the Dale Farm site said on Wednesday night that they were going to stand their ground and resist eviction.
Dale Farm Solidarity member Jake Fulton addressed the media outside the gates of the travellers' home, saying the families were "too distraught" to speak after they lost their High Court battle.
Mr Fulton said the travellers were prepared to resist.
"People are already flooding back, both travellers and supporters," Mr Fulton told reporters.
"We are expecting a big swell over the next couple of days and we'll be ready for when they come."