Travellers who set up an unauthorised camp on green belt in Meriden have lodged an appeal after plans to build on the site were turned down.
The appeal means campaigners opposing the development could wait until Christmas before the future of the site is decided.
Residents have been maintaining a 24-hour vigil in protest at Eaves Green Lane ever since the travellers arrived to occupy a section of nearby land, which they own, on April 30.
Last month Solihull Council’s planning committee rejected an application to establish a gypsy camp on the land, but the travelling community lodged an appeal against the decision this week.
David McGrath, of the campaign group Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID), said: “We never wanted this fight but we will not shrink from a battle with anyone who thinks it is right to send bulldozers into our green belt and then ask questions later.
“Everyone is affected by this and the stakes are high. If we lose it will send out a message that green belt policy, local consultation and our precious ecology means nothing in the face of unlawful and unethical developers who try to steal a march on the planning process.
“But we will not be bullied by the bulldozers and will win – however long it takes.”
The group has gathered £18,500 so far through donations and fund-raising events to pay for legal costs in the appeal, which it hopes to double in time.
Its plans include combining its current two camps manned in shifts by local residents to form one “super camp” to protect the protesters through the colder months. The group will also apply for principal party status to be able to formally oppose the appeal along with Solihull Council at a public inquiry.
Mr McGrath said: “We are drawing up a feasibility study about the best way to produce a fully robust camp. We also want to inject the residents’ presence into the inquiry.
“We are coming up to day 100 and we are expecting to be here at day 400.
‘‘We already have plans in place for Christmas dinner.”
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed the appeal had been received but was still in the process of validation and said it could be five months from the appeal being lodged until the case is heard by an inspector.
Once the inquiry has been heard, it could be weeks before a decision is made.
The travellers have accused their critics of “racism” and complained that 90 per cent of their planning applications are refused.
Solihull Council has allowed temporary development of the site to meet the travellers’ immediate health and welfare needs, including installing a drainage system and putting a fence around a pond to protect children on the site.