TRAVELLERS given a reprieve from the threatened clearance of the UK's largest illegal site in Essex are celebrating - but have warned the fight is not over yet.

Residents and supporters of Dale Farm, near Basildon, threw parties on Monday night after a tense day on the six-acre site ended with a last-minute injunction, allowing them to remain until Friday.

Richard Sheridan, from the Gypsy Council, said: "Nobody saw this one coming. We kept it up our sleeve and it has come off brilliantly."

There are concerns that an influx of supporters throughout the weekend and on Monday may come to nothing if those now on site begin to drift away.

Supporter Jake Fulton said: "This is a big boost but the battle isn't over. We will continue to man the barricades and are urging people to stay - in fact we would welcome more supporters to join us. We really feel like we are on the verge of winning a historic victory to protect the rights of travellers."

East of England MEP Richard Howitt said that the decision brought breathing space but further efforts were needed.

He added: "It mustn't be used as an excuse to relax efforts to find a compromise to avert forced eviction. For all those who have rightly insisted that this is about the rule of law, it is important to recognise that today the court ruled it was Basildon Council who may be acting illegally.

"My message is that it is not too late to secure a mediated solution and I say to Basildon Council and the travellers I stand ready to assist in any way."

About 200 protesters barricaded themselves inside Dale Farm on Monday as Basildon Council prepared to remove them forcibly from the former scrapyard.

But the bailiffs were called off after a judge at London's High Court granted an order stopping the clearance until a further legal hearing on Friday.