Victorious green belt campaigners in Meriden paused their celebrations to remember four local residents who died before travellers were finally ousted from a nearby camp.
Defiant villagers had rejoiced as the last of the travellers who had illegally set up camp in Eaves Green Lane left on Saturday – ending a three-year fight to move them on.
But there was mixed emotions for activists on Monday as they marked the contributions of James Charlesworth, Roy Kedward, Margaret Griffiths and Barry Pointon.
Each had played their part in manning, day and night, a shelter opposite the gypsy camp which the Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) group had used as its base.
A minute’s silence was observed by about 100 RAID campaigners before the shelter was taken down amid rapturous applause and a collective, tangible sigh of relief.
But campaigners also warned that the fight has not yet finished – the travellers now have until May 21 to put a muddy field they had unlawfully developed back to the state they found it in three years ago.
David McGrath, chairman of RAID, said: “Sadly they never got to see this joyous day but I’m sure they’re looking down with broad smiles on their faces. They gave up huge amounts of time to support us but never lived to see the campaign become successful.”
Mr McGrath said the travellers’ departure had ended a protracted 1,088-day dispute which had seen campaigners raise £90,000 to fund 20 legal and planning battles.
“This is only the end of phase one. That land must be reinstated to its original status so the travellers have a month to take out the sewers they fitted, electricity junction boxes and put it back to the wildflower meadow it once was.”
If no reinstatement takes place, Mr McGrath said the camp would “move to outside the council’s offices” as it falls to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council to take any follow-up planning enforcement action.
Widower David Griffiths said the minute’s silence was a fitting tribute to his wife Barbara who passed away two years ago.
“She would be elated if she was still here,” he added.
A Solihull council spokesman said: “The families at Eaves Green Lane have now vacated the site as required by the High Court injunction.
“The council will now monitor the site to ensure it is reinstated back to its previous condition as the injunction specifies. The deadline for this work is 4pm, on May 21, 2013.”