Travellers at Dale Farm have won two extensions of an injunction to stop Basildon council from evicting them.
The council had issued enforcement notices to evict around 400 people from the site in Essex.
But on Monday of this week Justice Edwards-Stuart extended an injunction for a second time over concerns about what the council is entitled to do.
This doesn’t mean the threat is lifted. The judge said he wants to resolve the dispute in “days, rather than weeks”.
He added that “there is no dispute that the enforcement notices are valid”, but ruled that there were unresolved legal issues “in relation to almost every plot” on the site.
The case now rests on a number of questions that will be explored in a further hearing on Thursday of this week. That hearing will also consider an application by the Travellers for a judicial review into the case.
The judge confirmed that “the site, or at least part of it, was used as a scrapyard” before the Travellers bought it. He also confirmed that the site is in a green belt area.
Some of the council’s enforcement notices refer to the removal of concrete and rubble on the site while others demand the removal of caravans.
The judge found that “a substantial part of the site was covered by hard standing [concrete and rubble] in 2001 when the present owners acquired it”.
He will now try to determine when buildings, structures, walls, fences and gates were erected—and whether the council can remove or demolish them.
Reuben Taylor, barrister for Basildon council, submitted that the council had the power to do anything “reasonably necessary” to achieve compliance with the orders.
He said this was the case “even if the action is not specifically described in the enforcement notice itself”. But the judge rejected this as being “too wide”.
Marc Willers, representing the Travellers, argued that the council had issued notices in 1992 relating to breaches of planning control in respect of hard standing at the site.
But the judge ruled that this did not mean that the council could not issue further notices on the breaches.
The legal extensions have boosted the Travellers who are fighting to keep their homes. But they still need urgent support.