Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Meriden greenbelt protesters face gaol after council decision

A packed meeting of Meriden villagers has voted to continue protest action to protect the greenbelt despite a decision by Solihull Council to take enforcement action against the protest camp set up to oppose an illegal gypsy site in Eaves Green Lane - subject to whether lawyers for the Council judge the action to be 'proportionate and expedient'

Solihull Council has rejected a call by Meriden protesters to give them the same deal as given to the travellers earlier in the year - to approve a temporary stay until March 2013 - opting instead to take prosecution a step further forward

Many of the protesters in the 70's and 80's risk fines of up to £50k, imprisonment, Dale Farm style demolition of the Meriden protest camp if they do not quit their protest site set up to oppose an illegal invasion of greenbelt by Gypsies on a wildlife site during the May bank holiday of 2010.

At a private Planning Committee last Wednesday Solihull Councillors voted for the prosecution option rather than award them the same extension of stay (until March 2013) given to travellers on the illegal pitch opposite their protest site - subject to whether the Council's lawyers adjudge prosecution to be 'expedient and proportionate'.  A decision should be known in 10 days

In an email sent to RAID leader David McGrath the Councils solicitor confirmed

Following a debate of the issues the Committee resolved that the Solicitor to the Council be authorised to issue legal proceedings if an advice is obtained from Counsel confirming that such action would be both proportionate and expedient.

I confirm that we discussed the three options available to the Council to ensure compliance with an Enforcement Notice, those being, Prosecution, Injunction and Direct Action. For the avoidance of doubt, the Council will be advised by Counsel, what, if any, action is the most expedient and proportional response. No decision has yet been made in this regard.

The move has been labelled as heavy handed and unfair by Protest leader David McGrath of Meriden RAID

DAVID McGRATH SAID: 'The Council Could have given us the same 'extra tine' deal as they gave to the travellers - who don't live at the site at night but are causing daytime harm the greenbelt. Instead they have gone for an option which will waste taxpayers money even though we have stated that we will leave in March 2013 if the travellers keep to their agreement to go'

DAVID ADDED: 'We will leave if when the traveller developers leave and clean up the mess they have caused in the countryside.  We will not stop protesting until they go - even if that risks imprisonment'.

FELLOW PROTESTER MARYLIN CRAWLEY ADDED 'We have been here 822 days and it is a disgrace that the Council wont treat us equally giving us the same deal as the travellers.  We don't have legal aided barristers backing us and don't have special rights either.  We will go to prison if we have to.  We go when they go'

EURO MEP NIKKI SINCLAIRE SAID 'If protesting was an OLYMPIC event these people would get the gold medal.  Solihull Council is wrong and should use their own judgement to dismiss the thought of action against this temporary presence.  Positive discrimination has reared its ugly head and the residents aren't getting the same deal as the travellers who claim to live at the site but are never there at night'

A packed meeting of over 200 RAID protesters passed a resolution yesterday stating:
'We are concerned and dismayed that Solihull Council has voted to explore prosecution action against protesters rather than award the same deal to residents as given to the travellers in Eaves Green Lane i.e extension of stay until March 2013
Residents value their fundamental right to protest at this site, their desire to protect the countryside and expect fair and equal treatment from Solihull Council - respecting our human rights. No amount of threats of prosecution or persecution will dissuade us from our campaign to restore Meriden's green belt. We urge members and officers at Solihull Council to reconsider their decision and exercise their own judgement that it is neither proportionate or expedient to waste taxpayers money in pursuing legal and prosecution action against Meriden residents'

Both the travellers and the residents own their respective plots of land and neither has planning permission to stay. The travellers - aided by barristers at a recent High Court hearing - negotiated a further stay of 12 months while the Meriden protesters face prosecution within 2 weeks if Council lawyers give the green light'
Residents have maintained their protest vigil for over 820 days since the bank holiday invasion of travellers in April 2010


It has also been revealed that although the travellers signed an agreement to leave the Eaves Green Lane site in March (following dismissal of their appeal by Birmingham High Court) - in exchange for a further years stay - they have now brought in part of the Dale Farm legal team (Gore Davies) to contest the decision through the Court of Appeal in London funded by Legal aid
Gore Davies (now part of Lester Morrill Inc Davies Gore) hit the headlines last year when it was revealed that they earned over £6m in legal aid fees over 5 years from the Dale Farm dispute