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Subject: Titnore Tree-Top protesters face High Court Appeal against earlier ruling to leave
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 01:16:05 +0200 (CEST)

Titnore Tree-Top protesters face High Court Appeal against earlier ruling to leave

Tree-top protesters camping in a Sussex Ancient Woodland will try to launch an appeal against an earlier ruling that they must leave. On the 27th July 2006 Senior Court Official Master Turner gave an order for possession, saying the protesters posed a risk of "serious harm to persons and property".

Campaigners vowed to appeal and resist efforts to move them. They want to save 210 trees on the site, near Worthing. Developers have planned 875 new homes and a new Tescos Superstore on land known as the Lake Rue. The wood is designated as important for nature conservation, with oak, ash, birch and willow trees growing there. The Titnore campers will have to shell out at least £400, to lodge an appeal against the possession order granted in the High Court on Thursday July 27.

The Protect Our Woodland group moved into the wood at the end of May and went on to build up to 20 tree houses. They also put up notices claiming squatters' rights in the woodland. Three of the eco-warriors, Jim Mutley, 25, Charlie Wells, 28, and Shaun Lewis, 40, an arborist and professional tree surgeon, represented their group in court. They claimed they were engaged in a peaceful protest, there was no risk of a disturbance, and the group was there to defend the woods.

But the court ruled the group were unlawful occupants, there was a risk of public disturbance and also danger to people and property. Master Turner found that the prospect of "passive resistance" to eviction, involving people in treetop positions, fulfilled the criteria and he compared the situation to the protests against the Newbury Bypass in the 1990s. He said the removal of protesters would be "extremely expensive" and "it will require what are known as cherry pickers, the use of chainsaws to cut away trees" and "will obviously go on for several days".

On the matter of the immediacy, he said: "The longer this occupation continues, the more expensive it all becomes and the more difficult to evict those on the land". Master Turner added that the county court bailiffs did not have the financial resources or the expertise and skills to carry out such an eviction, while the High Court bailiffs were "capable of planning a properly organised exercise".

Mr Somerset and his father, Fitzroy, who recently transferred the land to his son, claimed the Lake Rue site was not actually part of the wood. Earlier in the hearing, Mr Jones, counsel for the Somersets, said the matter needed to be dealt with urgently through the High Court because in September the period for starting a judicial review against planning permission for the development would expire. It was hoped to start work on the 875-home estate as soon as possible after that point, he said.

Worthing Borough Council was threatened with a Judicial Review - possibly in the High Court - that would be based on the decision of the Development Control Committee to recommend the approval of alterations to Titnore Lane, as part of its decision to grant outline planning permission for the development at West Durrington. The council have been told that the evidence submitted to their Development Control Committee and presented at its meeting on March 28th, was defective in five main areas.

Barristers acting for the claimant, The Worthing Society, have stated that if legal proceedings are required, a quashing order will be sought from the Court quashing the grant of planning permission WB/04/00040/OUT together with an order for costs.

Titnore tree campers have vowed to continue their legal fight for occupation of woodland threatened with the chop at West Durrington. At a High Court hearing on Thursday July 27, senior official Master Turner gave them leave to appeal against his decision to grant a possession order to landowners Fitzroy and Clem Somerset. They now have until 4pm on Friday August 11 to lodge their appeal.

A campaigner, called Hazel, said: "This is the last stretch of ancient forest on the southern coastal plain." She said, wildlife species in the woods including crested newts, dormice and butterflies would be killed off by the development. Another campaigner at the tree-top village, who did not give a name, said: "We will take whatever legal means are available to us to make sure that we are victorious".

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