Fenland Council fears enforcement against travellers will lead to Dale Farm type reaction

FENLAND District Council admitted today it fears a Dale Farm type reaction if it tries to remove travellers who have illegally occupied and expanded a 10-acre site near Wisbech.

The council said if it takes direct action against the travellers at Redmoor Lane, Elm, it could face court injunctions similar to that facing authorities trying to remove even larger numbers from the illegal Dale Farm camp in Essex.

“We have to make absolutely sure that any action we take is watertight and not open to legal challenge,” a council spokesman admitted. “It is by no means as straightforward as it seems.”

A neighbour who insists on remaining nameless says those occupying the site are using “every trick in the book” to avoid being evicted.

“Not only that but they continue to add new homes to the site,” said the neighbour. “Only last week another static van went onto the site – and the council stood by and did nothing.

“It’s got to the point where even if we wanted to sell our homes no-one would want to buy them.”

Councillors will get a fresh chance to study the site following an application by one of the travellers, Elizabeth Curtis, to put seven static and seven touring caravans on part of the site.

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The application comes seven months after the deadline imposed by a Government inspector for Mrs Curtis and other travellers to leave.

Diane Lewis, who conducted a public inquiry in 2009, gave them until January of this year quit the site.

She dismissed a series of appeals and enforcements lodged by residents against the refusal of planning permission.

“The risk of flooding remains,” she said of the site. “The thrust of national and development plan policy is to direct a highly vulnerable form of development away from such areas.

“I conclude the site is not suitable located in terms of flood risk.”

She also said the site – south of the A47 Wisbech bypass - detracts from the open character of the Fenland landscape.

And she denied the claims that new sites were needed since she said Fenland Council anticipates 80 of the 89 pitches required to meet demand “will be found through regularising existing tolerated sites. A further three permanent pitches have been recently granted permission.

“On this basis the general need for new pitches in the short term is not as urgent as may first appear.”

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