The families argued that the High Court judge had given them insufficient time to find an alternative site and that the decision to uphold the council's injunction was disproportionate with their rights to family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They maintained that no action should be taken until a planning application seeking retrospective permission for the development had been properly considered by the council.
In the Court of Appeal, Lord Phillips acknowledged that the plight of Gypsies with no permanent place to rest was an unhappy one, in part due to the failure of some local authorities to provide sites for travellers.
However, he stated that this did not entitle Gypsies or other travellers to occupy land without seeking permission and then contend that their family rights entitled them to remain.
The green belt site in question had already been subject to extensive planning scrutiny and a number of court orders had been flouted, the judge noted. This was a case, he ruled, where the legitimate aim of maintaining the planning regime made it necessary to interfere with the family rights of the appellants.
The judge pointed out that the group had already secured an eight-month period of grace following the High Court ruling in February and concluded that it would therefore be appropriate for them to leave the site within a period of two months. To allow them to remain longer would be seen as an open invitation to similar lawlessness elsewhere, he determined.
South Bucks District Council v Coates and Others; Date: 22 October 2004; Ref: A2/2004/0344.