Campaigners who set up camp to protest against a nearby illegal Gypsy site in Meriden have been evicted by councillors – while the travellers still remain.
At a dramatic Solihull Council planning meeting last night, members of the RAID (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) group were told their vigil in Eaves Green Lane must stop by the end of March.
But campaign spokesman David McGrath said after the meeting, which was adjourned for ten minutes so 11th hour talks could take place between councillors, council officers, protesters and Gypsy representatives, that the campaign would go on.
The talks, aimed at forming a group to negotiate effective monitoring of the Gypsy encampment, floundered as councillors voted unanimously to back enforcement action against the RAID campaigners, who have set up an awning, shelter and wood burner at a builder’s yard to help their 24-hour vigil, which has lasted more than 640 days.
Chief planning officer Gary Palmer’s pledge that a report be presented to the next planning committee meeting detailing monitoring arrangements to ensure compliance with the law, was also backed.
Gypsies moved onto green belt land in Eaves Green Lane in April 2010 and lost an appeal in October to stay at the site, but their caravans have remained.
Campaigners claimed at the meeting they had prevented eight lorry-loads of hardcore being delivered illegally to the Gypsy camp, and planning committee member Coun Jim Ryan admitted the protesters had served an invaluable role as “the council’s eyes and ears” monitoring breaches of the law.
But councillors said evicting the protesters was the only way of ensuring they were being fair to all parties.
Mr McGrath said after the meeting: “It’s hugely ironic that the planning system can gear up to evict residents who are there to protect the green belt yet seem paralysed to take action against travellers, who heap spurious appeal on top of spurious appeal to string out their stay and somehow hope that the resolve of the council and residents will be diminished.”
He said the protesters would take down the temporary structures they had put up, but added: “There’s no law in the country that can stop us returning to the site and sitting in the mud and snow if we so choose. This is currently what the residents are minded to do.
“We will only move when we see clear enforcement action taken against those who have devastated otherwise unspoilt countryside.”
Representatives of the Gypsy community who attended the meeting declined to speak to the Post. They face another court hearing in March over their eviction.