A judge has granted a possession order to North Devon Council to take back land at Seven Brethren - but homeless camp says it will continue to fight decision.
A judge has granted North Devon Council the power to take back possession of land at Seven Brethren where a camp of homeless people is living.
Judge John Stockdale granted the possession order, to take effect in 14 days, at Barnstaple County Court this morning (Wednesday).
A peaceful protest of around 25 people formed outside of the court before the 10am hearing with placards showing support for the camp.
During proceedings, camp occupant Nat Hyland spoke on behalf of himself and the two other men currently living on the site.
He said he had set up the nine tents to help homeless people in the area, and this year the camp had seen around 35 occupants come and go.
“I’m trying to give homeless people security and safety, to make them feel like they have a home,” Mr Hyland told the judge.
“I’m doing this for people that have nothing. I’m not here standing for me, I’m standing for the homeless people of Barnstaple.”
During the hearing, Trevor Blatchford, representing NDC, told the court the council sought the order after a gathering took place at the site on November 3.
He said the council had become aware a fundraiser involving fireworks was being organised, and had spoken to residents to ask them not to go ahead.
But there had been safety concerns after a few people met at the site and fireworks were left off, and this was why the council was now seeking the order.
Summing up, Judge Stockdale said: “It is very unfortunate that such an event as this, which should be one to enjoy and benefit from, has had this serious effect on the people living here.”
The council now has 14 days until it can act upon the order and evict the camp – but whether it acts or not is at its discretion.
Speaking outside of court, Mr Hyland said he would continue to fight for the camp to stay there, ‘even if it kills me’.
Kiz Angell, of the charity Survival Bags - Home and Away, said the next step would be to arrange to meet with the council as soon as possible.
She said: “We want to work with them to ensure the homeless guys have some sort of alternative place, or to give them some sort of security.”
Labour Party chairman Mark Cann, who also attended the protest, added: “I’m disappointed; all of this should have been resolve between the parties concerned.
“That’s what they have been doing the last three-to-four months, so why reach for the court order now?
“When [NDC leader] Des Brailey wrote back to me, he said there was no intention of enforcing the order, so I hope they will begin a meaningful process to reach some sort of alternative for these people.”
Following the hearing, a spokesman for North Devon Council said: “Our housing outreach workers will continue to work with the individuals living at the camp to try and resolve their housing issues.
“As outlined in Councillor Des Brailey’s previous statement, the possession order is to protect the council’s land interest and enable us to take back the land if the offers of accommodation are refused.”