TRAVELLERS living illegally on a Fylde site could face imprisonment after the council vowed to take legal action against them.
The group has been living on land off Fairfield Road, Staining, for more than two years without planning permission – and now Fylde Council has lost patience with their failure to comply with the rules.
An injunction means the travellers cannot have more than 30 caravans on the site, but the council claims that is been repeatedly ignored.
The authority has now instructed lawyers to begin proceedings against the travellers – who lost their appeal to win planning permission last year – after a unanimous vote by members of the development management committee.
Coun Maxine Chew, who spoke on behalf of local residents at the planning appeal, said: “I’m pleased they (the council) has decided to go and enforce the injunction.
“At the moment there are 44 caravans on that site and I’m relieved for the local residents something is going to be done.
“I feel very sorry for the people who live in (nearby) Hardhorn because they feel they’ve been let down. They’ve just spent their third Christmas with the travellers.”
The travellers, who arrived in November 2009, are also the subject of another injunction which orders them to leave and return the site to its original state by this summer.
They are appealing that injunction and the refusal of planning permission.
Fylde Council is due to hear within days whether that appeal – which was lodged after the deadline – has been accepted.
In the meantime, a high court judge will now decide whether, by having too many caravans on the site, the travellers have breached the injunction to such a degree they can be fined or imprisoned.
Fylde Council said it has repeatedly asked the group to reduce the number of caravans.
Coun Ben Aitken, chairman of the development management committee, said: “The Council is extremely concerned at the continued impact such development is having on the local community.
“No-one wants to see anyone sent to prison if that can be avoided. But at the moment it seems that taking this action is the only way to make the travellers obey the court order.”
At the inquiry in July, residents claimed travellers had caused excessive noise, heavy traffic, litter and dog excrement.
But the travellers claim they need somewhere to live and are settled on the site.
Planning permission was refused by the Government in August because of the damage the site would cause to the environment.