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Dale Farm Travellers Dispute Raises Numerous Legal Issues

Property Litigation Expert Highlights Key Issues


The proposed clearance of a group of travellers from Dale Farm in Essex by Basildon Council has attracted worldwide publicity, especially after an injunction was granted delaying the proposed eviction on Monday 19th September 2011.

Danny Revitt, a partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Property Litigation team lists below some of the numerous legal issues that this case has highlighted.

- It must be remembered that this is not a dispute over trespass. Some of the travellers own the land. The Council’s action results from the travellers not having planning permission to live on the site. For these reasons, the Council has emphasised that the process is a site clearance and not an eviction. The site will remain in their ownership after any site clearance has taken place, but they will not be permitted to live there.

- Trespass issues could arise if the travellers choose to occupy other land that is not in their ownership after any site clearance has taken place.

- The injunction granted on 19th September 2011 related to the need to ensure that details of how the site clearance will take place and what will be removed were clear to the Council and the travellers.

- The travellers argue that planning laws should be relaxed to allow them to occupy sites such as this, whereas others argue that the green belt should be preserved.

- Local councils find themselves in the difficult position of being challenged by some members of the public for spending public money on regularly evicting travellers from council owned land that has been illegally occupied but also being challenged for spending public money on setting up authorised sites for travellers.

- Travellers argue that Human Rights laws are being breached if Councils do not set up sufficient sites to accommodate them.

It is clear that the issues highlighted by events at Dale Farm will remain in the public eye, and potentially in the courts, for some time to come.