TRAVELLERS have refused to leave a controversial site in Chorley.
Friday should have marked the end of a two-year battle over the legality of a makeshift caravan site in Hut Lane, Heath Charnock.
But, in yet another twist, the two families who have set up home there have defied a council enforcement notice, and refused to leave.
And, despite already losing a planning inquiry and appeal, they have now submitted fresh plans in a bid to make the greenbelt land their permanent home.
However, Chorley Council has insisted that it will ensure that the enforcement notice, which requires them to remove their caravans and then restore the land, is implemented, and said the new application cannot be used as a stalling tactic.
Reacting to the news, frustrated residents in neighbouring Hut Lane said in a statement: “We are not surprised that the illegal occupiers of the Hut Lane site have failed to comply with the enforcement notice and have submitted a further planning application.
“These illegal developers, who are merely intent on obtaining residential status on greenbelt land for personal financial gain, have lost both a high profile public inquiry and had a subsequent appeal that was thrown out by the High Court.
“However, they continue to demonstrate a breathtaking contempt for the law of the land, and for the people of Chorley.
“At a time when government spending cuts are causing local authorities to reduce services and leave law abiding people facing redundancy, it is an absolutely appalling state of affairs that Chorley Council is having to divert funds in order to defend a further baseless planning application from a group of people with negligible connections to the borough.
“They are simply looking to extend their illegal occupation of greenbelt land for their own selfish commercial gain.”
The travellers, headed by Mike Linfoot and Jo Boswell, only secured planning permission for a stable block before they moved on to the land in June 2009 and they have fought ever since to stay.
However, a planning inspector ruled that their occupation was unlawful and insisted that they must leave.
That decision was upheld at a High Court hearing earlier this year, but now the council may have to apply for an injunction to force them to go.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, added: “I’m sure there are many people in the local community who would love to purchase land at greenbelt prices and build a home.
“But, they know it’s neither fair, nor lawful so why do Mr Linfoot and Mr Boswell think they have rights any different to others, and think it is okay to continue to manipulate the planning process, at great public expense?
“This new planning application appears to be simply a scaled down version of the original one, and as such changes nothing.
“We now look forward to Chorley Council implementing the enforcement notice and taking the appropriate legal action to remove these illegal developers.”
The new application is for two static caravans, four touring caravans for residential use and storage of two touring caravans, together with retention of utility block, hardstanding for parking of vehicles and erection of stable block.
Coun Alan Cullens, who looks after the council’s partnerships and planning, said: “The council is aware that the travellers have not left the site at Hut Lane, despite last Friday’s deadline. We have gathered evidence of this and will now begin enforcement action.
“We can confirm that we have received a planning application for the land, which will be processed in the usual way.
“However, legal advice tells us that the submission of a new application does not in itself suspend the enforcement notices or prevent the council from taking the necessary action.”
Mr Linfoot refused to comment when contacted by the Guardian.