A band of gypsies who set up a notorious illegal camp have finally left the site after six years – leaving the field a rubbish-strewn mess.
The 50-strong group swooped on the five-and-a-half acre site in North Curry, Somerset, in a carefully-planned raid in 2004.
They brought in diggers and installed driveways, fences, sewerage and toilet blocks over a weekend when no council officers were on duty to intervene.
Their tactic triggered a wave of copycat raids among traveller groups across Britain.
The local council fought a tireless battle to evict the group which included two public inquiries and ended up in the High Court in London.
A judge gave a final deadline of today (2/11) to leave the site and the final family left on Monday, ending six years of hell for families living nearby.
But the once-picturesque site has been reduced to a muddy wasteland which is littered with rubble and concrete.
Bins were left piled high with clothes and gas canisters and household appliances were strewn in the bushes around the site.
Brian Dix, chairman of North Curry Parish Council, said the victory for people power was long overdue.
He said: ”It’s a relief for the whole village.
”This is well overdue and at least now we have found a proper solution. These travellers were breaking the law and they had to be treated accordingly.
”There has been unpleasant behaviour, police raids and police helicopter’s around the field since they moved in.
”There has also been people acting in a generally unruly way and unhygienic behaviour.”
The syndicate of 15 families bought the site in 2004 for a reported £12,500.
They timed their arrival at the site to coincide with the closure of the local council offices for the weekend at 4pm on Friday, leaving villagers powerless to intervene.
It was an illegal development but the council could not easily evict them because they were the legal owners of the land.
The camp’s neighbours were forced to put up with loud music, intimidation and criminal damage.
In 2005 one couple watched in horror as a 4×4 jeep ploughed through their gates in the middle of the night and repeatedly rammed their two cars.
They claimed it was ”intimidation” by the gypsies and villagers described their nightmare neighbours as leaving them in a ”living hell”.
Taunton Deane Borough Council had issued a stop notice when the gypsies moved onto the field, off Oxen Lane, North Curry, but they refused to move.
The authority applied for an injunction for eviction in January 2005 but the families appealed against the planning refusals – sparking a public enquiry.
After the inquiry found in favour of the council, then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott gave the families 12 months to leave so they could find ”alternative accommodation”.
The gypsies then re-submitted a plan for four extra pitches at the site which was refused, meaning the whole legal process had to begin again.
The second public inquiry, held in December 2007, again supported the council.
The High Court gave the gypsies 60 days to leave last October – finally threatening them with an injunction if they did not leave by Tuesday.
Another villager, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: ”There really aren’t many winners here.
”It has been going on for so long and everybody is really tired – we just wanted an end to it all.”
But Jake Bowers, a Romany journalist who has supported the gypsies in North Curry, blasted the situation – claiming it was forcing travellers to live in ”third world” conditions.
He said: ”Some of the families were offered another official gypsy site in the area, but turned it down because they said a sex offender was living there.
”They have all moved out of the district now, with one family being forced to move next to the side of the road.
”It is another example of gypsies being treated like second-class citizens.”
Despite having a population of just 1,500, North Curry already has seven official council sites – housing up to 80 gypsies.