TRESPASSERS on a conservation site could be there for at least three weeks after they refused to leave.
At least two caravans, a horse box and a variety of animals including horses and dogs were first spotted on the east side of Barnham Cross Common, in Thetford, last Friday.
Access was gained to the site after a padlock on a gate belonging to Anglian Water was broken.
The land, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is owned by the town council and representatives visited the site on Wednesday morning with police to ask the trespassers to leave.
But Susan Glossop, acting town clerk, said the group, which includes 11 children, refused to go and that legal action was being pursued.
“I spoke to someone at the site and explained that I was from the council and that they needed to move on but she said they had permission to stay there from Breckland Council.
“We knew that wasn’t the case but she said they couldn’t move straight away.
“We are now in contact with Breckland Council in regards to legal proceedings,” she said.
Ms Glossop added that the group had said they could not afford to move to a designated gypsy and traveller site located along the A11.
The council must now provide evidence of ownership of the land to a court to be given a warrant of possession.
It will then be entitled to use ‘reasonable force’ to evict the trespassers.
That process will take at least 21 days – with delays in finding a court date meaning it could take even longer.
And legal action could cost the council up to £2,000, according to Ms Glossop.
Concerns about refuse being left on the site after the trespassers leave has also been raised.
Keith Harvey, a volunteer for the Barnham Cross Common conservation group, said waste being left on site had been a problem in the past.
“If they leave the common in the condition it was in when they arrived then there’s no damage done but historically they don’t tend to do that,” he said.
A spokesman for Natural England said any damage to the site would be a criminal act and that legal action would be taken.