Travellers at the Crays Hill (Dale Farm) traveller site will today unveil a new £12,000 county council-funded community centre at a special launch event on Saturday.
The building, funded by Essex Racial Equality Council, is called St Christopher's, and will be used for community meetings and as a chapel and IT school for kids.
At a grand opening of the new building this afternoon, the building will be blessed by Father John Glynn of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Wickford. There will also be speeches by Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury, Clive Mardner, director of equality council, who sponsored the project and bid for the cash, and site spokesman Richard Sheridan, Gypsy Council president.
News of the community centre has infuriated some local residents and politicians since though the community centre is funded by the local council, the building hasn't been granted planning permission. The Dale Farm traveller site is awaiting a decision from the High Court about whether 86 families on the site should face eviction; a video of the
brutal eviction at the Meadowlands site in Essex in 2004 was shown at the High Court which is reported to have shocked the judge (Ref: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJYze2FQzr4 ). The traveller law centre has estimated that an eviction of the entire site will cost over £1 million.
Grattan Puxon, a lead campaigner for the site, has named the centre after a school he helped build on a site facing eviction on the outskirts of Dublin in the 1960s, where some ancestors of travellers at Dale Farm once lived.
He said: "We are very optimistic the judge's ruling will go in our favour, so the community centre will be very beneficial.
Funding for the new centre by the equality council came from a county council youth fund to buy the building and computers. Billericay MP John Baron has already urged the National Lottery to stop funding the equality council because he claims it is "biased to travellers".
"James Dasinger, a US volunteer living at the site, will run IT lessons for children." He said he did not believe the building required planning permission and said the equality council had pushed the project forward.
Basildon Council leader Malcolm Buckley said: "If any breaches of planning have occurred they will be subject to enforcement action.
* See video about Dale Farm at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JAyI-oB5dc
* Read a timeline of the Dale Farm controversy.
See also: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/diggers350/message/1731