A group of travellers involved in a four year battle with council bosses to stay on land in a Fylde village will be there for the foreseeable future – because of delays with their legal challenge.
Fylde Council had expected the families living in caravans on the site near Fairfield Road, Hardhorn, near Poulton, to leave yesterday after the Court of Appeal threw out their application to stay last year.
However, the group, which includes 39 children, lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court on November 5 and it has still not been heard.
The lack of a decision on the case from the London court has given the travellers a stay of execution and left the authority frustrated as the court does not resume proceedings until January 13.
And even then the case will join a queue which could mean at least an extra three week wait.
Allan Oldfield, chief executive of Fylde Council, said: “It’s a massive frustration. Not necessarily with the travellers but with the legal system.
“A lot of this is out of our hands but it’s been four years now and the estimated cost to the Fylde Council taxpayer has been £150,000. We are about enforcing planning law but a lot of people don’t have the resources to exhaust the planning system in the way these people have done.”
If the Supreme Court refuses the case of the travellers – who are living on the site without planning permission – officers will pass on the case to their councillor-run Development Management Committee.
They will consider three options, which include doing nothing, allow the site to remain as it is or evict the travellers from the site.
But if the Supreme Court accept the appeal, a date to consider the application could be set for 12 months time.
Mr Oldfield added: “Everyone has the right to legal defence but it takes so long.
“The Supreme Court has had this to look at since November 5 but it’s now January 3 and they haven’t made a decision. We are where we are. We have an ongoing relationship with the travellers and the residents and this is an ongoing process.”
The group – made up of four families, almost all of them members of the Irish travelling community – arrived on the 2.4 hectare site, just south of Fairfield Road, in November 2009.
Since then they have been involved in a long-running fight with Fylde Council planners in a bid to stay, insisting eviction would split the family and leave them no option but to camp by the road.
Pensioner Elaine Houghton, a resident on Fairfield Road, Hardhorn, said: “The court is yet to make up its mind and I don’t suppose for one moment it will be heard straight away when they return after the break, so we will be waiting another two or three weeks.
“We were prepared for this to happen.
“We know it’s a long, drawn out business, so this is no more than we expected.
“It has dragged on for four years and two months and it’s a long process.
“The best solution is the travellers leave on their own terms and they leave peacefully.”
A member of the travelling community at the site, who did not wish to be named, said: “We are going to the let the hearing take its course.
“We have no where else to go and we would be homeless.
“There are people here with severe disabilities and need to be here.”