Travellers vow: ‘We’ll remain to the bitter end’

The traveller camp near Poulton on Fairfield Road which travellers have been given three months to vacate.
The traveller camp near Poulton on Fairfield Road which travellers have been given three months to vacate.

A group of travellers told they must get off land in a Fylde village following a four-year legal battle have vowed they would not give up their fight to stay.

Residents close to the site near Fairfield Road, Hardhorn, near Poulton, have told of their delight after the 78-strong group of travellers lost their battle to stay on the greenfield site.

The traveller camp near Poulton on Fairfield Road which travellers have been given three months to vacate.

The traveller camp near Poulton on Fairfield Road which travellers have been given three months to vacate.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal threw out the travellers’ case.

They have now been given until January 3 to leave the land, where they have been living without planning permission, for good.

But a member of the group, which includes 39 children, said they have been given no option but to keep fighting.

Terry Kelly said: “We will stay until the bitter end.

“The council is saying we have three months to leave but they have offered us nowhere else to go.”

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 that eviction would split the family and leave them no option but to camp by the roadside.

They said there were no suitable alternative travellers’ sites in the area and being forced to move on would have a severe impact on the children’s welfare, including their health and educational prospects.

Mr Kelly added: “There’s a lot of kids and elderly people but none of that has been taken into consideration.”

Fylde Council rejected the travellers’ application for retrospective planning permission and issued an enforcement notice demanding they move off the site.

A member of the traveller group, Elizabeth Collins, appealed that decision but it was rejected by a planning inspector in August 2011 following an inquiry.

She then took the case to court after an enforcement notice requiring clearance of the site. Her challenge was dismissed by the High Court last year and the legal campaign was finally thrown out yesterday after she was refused permission to appeal further to the Supreme Court.

Lord Justice Richards, sitting at the Court of Appeal, said the group made a strong argument in favour of granting planning permission.

However, in the end, he ruled the visual impact on the previously unspoilt landscape, road safety concerns and the site’s large scale compared to the nearby village, outweighed the group’s pressing need for a stable home.

Eric Houghton, a neighbour who lives near the site, has followed the case closely and welcomed the verdict.

He said: “We are just glad we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a bad four years for residents.”

But he added: “We know they have got to go somewhere and I hope they get another site that is legal.”

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “To a large extent they have kept themselves to themselves but this problem has been on our doorstep for four years.”

Ian Curtis, Fylde Council’s head of governance, said: “We felt all along that the appeal decision by the Secretary of State was the correct one and we are happy that the Court of Appeal has agreed with us.

“The travellers also have interests that need to be considered but at the end of the day the proper planning process resulted in a decision that the development of a caravan site at this location was not appropriate.

“There really were no grounds for people just turning up and turning a green field into a residential area.”

The travellers have now been given until January 3 to leave the site. If they do not, the council can then look to take enforcement action.

Mr Curtis added: “The council would have a number of legal options to consider if the travellers fail to leave the land, but it would be premature to discuss them at this time.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “This decision comes after tireless work from officers at Fylde Borough Council which has worked with local residents to bring about this successful conclusion.”

“I have to praise those living near to the site who have gone through this process with humility and patience and have never shown frustration with what has been a long and complicated legal case.

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