AN IRISH travelling family are celebrating after a public inquiry granted them a two-year reprieve from eviction from their home in Biggin Hill.

The Delaneys, who have 10 children and live on land they own at the edge of Saltbox Hill, had objected to a 1997 council decision to move them because the site is green belt.

But thanks to a campaign by residents and help from the News Shopper, a planning inspector decided they can stay for two years, provided they manage the land which is on the edge of a site of special scientific interest.

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The family want to make a permanent home on the ex-gas holder station site, particularly as eight of the children are settled at the Good Shepherd Primary School, Dunley Drive, New Addington.

Grandfather Patrick Delaney, 51, said: "I'm over the moon for the time being.

"This means we can stay in our home, at least for another two years, and the council will have to help us look for another place.

"We have tried to look for other land but never found anywhere we could make a home.

"We are all happy and settled in this area. The children have settled in and made friends and are doing well at school.

"None of us want to harm the green belt. In fact, I would be happy to give the part of the land we don't use to the Charles Darwin Trust."

Council officer Tim Bloomfield said: "I'm disappointed the council lost the appeal, as I don't think the Delaneys were able to show they had looked far enough afield for somewhere else to live.

"If they are looking in Bromley, the council will assist them to do that. Certainly at the time of the enquiry we couldn't point them in the right direction, as a large part of the borough is green belt.

"They may have to look further afield in areas not subject to green belt policy but as they are travellers this shouldn't be a problem."

Biggin Hill ward councillor Geoff Gostt supported the Delaney family in their fight to stay on the land.

He said: "I'm very pleased for the family to be able to stay for this time as they are a part of the community here. I hope they can comply with the conditions."