VILLAGERS have claimed victory in a four-year battle to remove temporary buildings from Green Belt land after council workers moved in at dawn to tow them away.
Delighted campaigners woke yesterday morning to find district council workers had entered the Old Foresters sports ground, in Abridge Road, Theydon Bois, and begun demolishing the portable cabin and brick electricity storage building that have plagued them since they were built without planning permission in May 2008.
Members of Theydon Bois Action Group have been fighting to remove the ‘eyesore’ buildings since they were erected by landowners Parkeng and have repeatedly criticised the council for not doing enough.
Group chairman David McKelvey, 50, said: “Basically it’s what we have been asking for for an awfully long time and we are just glad that the council have removed them.
“The developers have used every single trick in the book to not removing the buildings.”
The district council issued Parkeng with an enforcement notice shortly after the buildings appeared – but the company and developer James Harris ignored the demand.
The authority took the firm to court last year, where they were fined £1,385 for not taking the buildings down and - after further attempts to negotiate with the owners failed - the council authorised the removal of the buildings in August.
“We have not just had the structures, we have had the Olympic campsite. It’s been one thing after another. They have been getting away with murder,” said Mr McKelvey.
“This could be a first step in stopping Green Belt land being built on.”
He added: “It’s a victory, but not the end of our fight. It’s the first battle.”
Frank Sparks, who lives opposite the site, said he and his neighbours were overjoyed to see the buildings removed.
“They were just an eyesore and they shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” said the 68-year-old.
“They defied an order – it’s high time they went.”
The site has now been entirely cleared and the buildings moved to the council contractor’s yard, from where Parkeng has three days to collect them before they are scrapped.
Cllr Richard Bassett, cabinet member for planning, said: “This type of action is very much a last resort.
“The landowner has had plenty of opportunity to remove these illegal buildings but has chosen not to do so.
“It was therefore necessary for the council to make sure that that the law is upheld.”
The Guardian has attempted to contact James Harris and is awaiting a response.
Click here to follow the Epping Forest Guardian on Facebook
Click here to follow the Epping Forest Guardian on Twitter