TRAVELLERS who built an illegal site on green belt land in Meriden have had their appeal to the Secretary of State rejected.
Solihull Council initially dismissed a planning application for retrospective permission to build eight permanent pitches for their caravans on land in Eaves Green, Meriden.
A subsequent public inquiry threw out the application.
This week Eric Pickles upheld the decision of the Planning Inspectorate - a move that residents and members of Meriden Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) welcomed.
David McGrath, spokesperson for RAID said: “The job isn’t finished yet, we are determined this will not be the next Dale Farm and drag on for months and years.
“The protest camp will stay until we get some enforcement action.
“The public inquiry showed this was never about hardship and the group must do the right thing and work with the council.”
Councillor Ken Meeson, leader of Solihull Council said: “We welcome this decision, which upholds our original decision to refuse planning permission.
“Clearly this has been an emotive issue, but at the heart of our planning decision has been the need to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development.
“We recognise that traveller families need to have somewhere to go, and both the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State have outlined the need for further traveller pitches within the borough.
“There is a need now to go through a legal process for further enforcement action, which will take time, and we ask for patience and understanding as we now move forward.”
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman said: “I’m pleased - it sends out a firm signal that you cannot build a development on green belt land without planning permission.
“The council has been working hard to provide extra pitches at the existing site there and the government has made it clear that those local authorities that provide authorised sites for travellers are in a strong position to move them on from unauthorised ones.
“Ultimately if travellers want to stay permanently in a community they can join the housing list.
“The decision sends out a clear message that no one is above the law and that planning regulations are there to be respected.
“Solihull has a history of accepting the travelling community.”
And West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire urged Solihull Council to take immediate action.
“We don’t want a Dale Farm scenario.
“I welcome the decision by the Secretary of State and I call on the travellers to vacate the land. I pay tribute to the residents who have made a stand.”