Birmingham & Black Country

Meriden Gypsy campaigners say they will not leave

Meriden protest camp
Image caption Residents set up the protest camp on 30 April 2010

Campaigners opposed to an illegal Gypsy site say they will be stay put despite a West Midlands council telling them to remove their demonstration camp.

Residents Against Inappropriate Development (Raid) in Meriden were ordered to move by Sunday.

Solihull Borough Council has refused a request for Raid to stay on the site. The Gypsies have agreed with the council to leave by 31 March 2013.

Raid spokesman Dave McGrath said: "It's business as usual."

He said: "Naturally we're disappointed - on one the hand they're prepared to let the travellers stay, whereas on the other hand the people trying to protect the green belt have been asked to move by the end of this month."

Members of the group have been taking it in turns to hold a 24-hour vigil at the camp since 30 April 2010 when the Gypsies put up eight permanent caravan pitches on a green-belt site in the village on Eaves Lane.

'Here to stay'

On Wednesday the council held a private meeting to consider an application from Raid asking to keep their demonstration camp for another year.

The council has said it will talk to the protesters to "explore options for the future lawful use of the site".

Mr McGrath said: "We'll be pleased to meet with them to clarify if there is any scope to carry on with our shelter, but for the moment it's business as usual and we will certainly not be moving.

Image caption Eight caravan pitches were put up in Eaves Lane in 2010

"It feels like there is one law for the travellers and one for local people and our campaign will not cease until the greenbelt is restored in Meriden.

"We're here to stay, we're here to campaign."

He also said they protesters be marking the two-year anniversary of being on the site on Sunday.

In July 2010, the council refused to give the Gypsies retrospective planning permission, a decision upheld by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last October.

In March 2012 a High Court judge rejected their appeal against a decision, which ruled their development could not remain on the Meriden site.

The Gypsies had claimed the council did not provide viable alternative accommodation.

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