aerial photo of Dale Farm traveller site in Crays Hill, Essex
Although Dale Farm residents won an injunction in the High Court, this only postpones the eviction until Friday. At 11.30am the court will consider the technical legality of the notices which the council issued. Depending on the outcome of this hearing, the eviction may be reactivated immediately on Friday afternoon.
We’re here in solidarity with the residents for as long as they want us to support them. The residents have made it clear to us that, should the eviction be reinstated, they want our strong and continued support to resist it.
This means we need to be prepared to show a very strong presence on Friday should the hearing permit the council to restart eviction proceedings. Supporters will need to be on alert and ready to come down to the site immediately on Friday, given a negative outcome.
Come to the High Court on the Strand to show your solidarity with the Dale Farm residents at 11.30 on Friday or come to the site. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out how to get involved in the campaign. Dale Farm is easy to get to from London and is a very special place.
Visit http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/contact for info on how to get here.
[source: Ref: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/ ]
On Monday the 19th September the Dale Farm traveller site won a last-minute court injunction just after baliffs issued papers and began manoeuvuring to start eviction of this site. The injunction restrains Basildon Council from clearing the site pending a further High Court hearing this Friday (23rd). Read the Dale Farm solidarity statement here: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/dale-farm-solidarity-statement-on-basildons-botching-of-the-eviction/
The injunction was granted on health and safety grounds by Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart on the basis that there was a realistic apprehension that the measures to be taken - while genuinely believed in by the council - "may go further" than the terms of the enforcement notices. This is corroborated by legal observers at Dale Farm opining there were huge health and safety problems for the baliffs in tackling this situation, which baliffs have apparantly privately conceded. In other words, they will be unable to just wade in in the manner they are used to.
Short introductory summary of the story so far
The Dale Farm estate, on Oak Lane in Crays Hill, Billericay, Essex, is a former scrapyard bought by traveller families and has existed since the 1970s. Basildon council have fought a long running battle to evict 51 pitchs approximately covering half of the entire Dale Farm site who are without planning permission (the other 34 pitchs have planning permission). It has been doing this whilst refusing to provide alternative sites for the 80 families (approximately 500 people) on the 51 pitchs who are arguing for this on the grounds that they have the right to have their customary rights to settle protected on the basis that there is inadequate provision of traveller sites in the district (as is the case across the UK). Basildon council refused to reach a deal on the basis that the land on that half of the Dale Farm site without planning permission is worth only £120,000. And yet, Basildon council voted to spend a third of its budget - £8 million demolishing the estate and turning people out onto the road. The policing of what could be a three-week operation has an additional price tag of £10 million, of which £6 million is being provided by the Home Office.
It is also reported that Basildon council walked away from a working group looking into a solution to the standoff in which the Homes & Communities Agency offered money for a new site for the families. Read here: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/09/484683.html
Since the middle of August, campaigners in solidarity with Dale Farm and the residents have been calling on people to come down to Camp Constant – the solidarity camp defending the site (named after te name of the notorious baliff company who have been contracted to do the eviction by Basildon Council). Sign up to the sms eviction alert system at https://smsalerts.tachanka.org/dalefarm/ . Activists have complied a phone-tree for urgent call-outs. Email contact: dale.farm AT btinternet.com Or tel - Grattan Puxon on: 07757533380. Check out video of residents and supporters celebrating and learning together.
The Dale Farm evictions potentially could be very violent and there is a definite worry of injuries. Many of the families particularly those with elderly relatives are distressed and frightened and the community really does not want to be broken up. The Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell and Catholic Bishop of Brentwood Thomas McMahon along with famous actress Vanessa Redgrave recently visited the illegal travellers site in Essex, and met some of the 80 families who are under immediate threat of eviction. The operation is expected to take at the very least over a week especially because with the international media watching, bailiffs will be more inclined to go slowly and by the book whilst the resistance against eviction remains non-violent. The bailiff company, Constant & Co, have a notorious reputation for brutality in previous evictions of traveller sites (see below).
Final notice to quit their land at Dale Farm, Basildon, Essex, expired at midnight on Wednesday 31st August after Dale Farm lost what they thought was their final chance at getting an emergency injunction to delay the planned eviction. This meant that, since the 1st Sept, the bailiffs have been in a position to come at any time (Basildon council always publicly stated that they will give proper notice of eviction, which they have honoured).
Then it was announced that the eviction was set to start on Monday the 19th September. Tuesday's last-minute injunction restrains Basildon Council from clearing the site pending a further High Court hearing this Friday (23rd).
Ongoing legal battles, physical confrontation, blockading and any other tactics available are coming together to make this as financially crippling a mission for the Basildon Council as possible. On this basis, Basildon council should be minded to back down, eat humble pie and compromise to find an alternative site for the families fighting to preserve their right to settle together in keeping with their customary tradition, a culture that has long been discriminated in this country by successive governments and which, as a result, has seen subsequent generations from sections of the traveller community at friction with settled communities across the country as vacant sites to settle become rarer and rarer in ever decreasing circles as the years go by.
UN urges UK to halt Dale Farm Eviction
UN experts have urged the UK authorities to halt the evictions process and to pursue negotiations with the residents until an acceptable agreement for relocation is reached.
Richard Sheridan as president of the Gypsy Council has been involved in eleventh-hour negotiations with the UN Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva; the Special Raporteur has already entreated the UK Government to cease the evictions and to ensure the families at Dale Farm are offered viable culturally appropriate alternative sites. Amnesty International has sent a call out to all their many thousands of supporters, condemning a forced eviction which would leave families homeless, when no alternative culturally appropriate site has been made available. This follows last week’s letter from the UN Special Rapporteur to the UK government, expressing concern that the planned forced evictions will be a clear breach of human rights legislation, if families are not offered an alternative site before forced evictions take place. See the Essex University Human Rights Clinic for more information on this.
The Council previously released information that they intend to cut water and electricity supplies from Dale Farm after the eviction notice period expires on midnight 31st August. This will leave sick, elderly, young, and pregnant residents without access to water or electricity.
The Dale Farm case has been registered with the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions, which sent a special team to monitor the eviction, calling the pending eviction "a violation of international law." Report here: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/84514,news-comment,news-politics,traveller-evictions-un-accuses-uk-of-human-rights-abuses-on-visit-to-dale-farm
Info on getting to Dale Farm
Dale Farm is approx 2 mile walk from Wickford Train Station, 30 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street Station. Donations are also being gratefully accepted, please do so here. Even small amounts help, and please forward this request to your friends or any lists you are on.
ROAD BLOCK WARNING: Notices have gone up along Oak Road, adjacent to Dale Farm, saying that the road will be closed to all but residents from Friday, Sept. 2nd. See http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/contact for details. Both ends of Oak Road will be blocked (blocking access via both Hardings Elm Road and Gardiners Lane North). Additionally, the lay by on the southern end of Oak Lane (leading on to the A127; by the white ‘Basildon onion’ water tower) will be blocked. There will be a no stop zone on the footpaths on the A127 between A176 at Billericay and A132 at Wickford. Residents are feeling under siege, with children asking how many more nights they are going to be able to sleep in their beds. Dale Farm is a big site, so it should be possible to find routes in, but be advised that after Sept. 1, it will be harder to get in, and likely impossible to get vehicles in.
First They Came For the Gypsy/Travellers
The long-term trend of cultural apartheid against the gypsy & travelling community through subjective discriminatory intepretation of changing government policy over the years started with local authorities' enthusiastic adherance to implementing section 23 of the '1968 Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act' which gave powers to close commons to travellers whilst section 24 of the same act to provide traveller sites was ignored. It resulted in long-running displacement and ostracisation of the culturally diverse gypsy & travelling community. The result has been the ghettoisation of the travelling community to marginal bits of land around the country, and in some cases, the abandonment of a cultural lifestyle and retreat to conventional housing. Then, things stepped up a gear with the passing of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 by the Conservative Government, which repealed the duty of local authorities to provide sites, stating that gypsies and travellers should buy their own land. However, many travellers were excluded from access to a planning process subject to highly complex procedures and a dearth of advice - with the result that many were stranded in legal terms and compelled to live on their own land without planning permission. Travellers across the country faced such impossible odds in actually receiving planning permission for Traveller sites over many years that there was estimated to have been an over 90% rate of refusal. The culmination of a wave of failed planning applications and the resulting enforcement actions occurred especially from the late 1990s onwards (there are many travellers who are said to have just walked away from land they purchased). It resulted in a spate of brutal and violent evictions across the country over recent years, most notably Woodside in 2003, Meadowlands in Essex in 2004 and Twin Oaks Caravan Park in Ridge in Hertfordshire in Jan 2005. See: http://www.advocacynet.org/ website for footage of previous evictions by Constant.
Dale Farm became a refuge in the last few years for families evicted from other sites. (see background info below for a brief more detailed historical overview of what's happened at Dale Farm).
Human Rights campaigner and advocate of Roma as well as Irish Travellers - Grattan Puxon: "Travellers should not have to live in constant fear of eviction with their lives and communities under constant threat. They should not have to be forced out of their homes and off their land by bulldozers and police. This constant hounding, marginalisation, and lack of provision is how rural England does ethnic cleansing. It is time for a resurgence of support for Gypsy and Traveller communities. Time to stand against the extreme racial discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Time to defend the right of Gypsies and Travellers to land, life, respect, and dignity."
Background of what's happened at Dale Farm
Dale Farm, virtually a village established in rural Essex, is the home of some one thousand Travellers and Gypsies, recognized as ethnic groups under UK law.
Dale Farm became a refuge in the last few years for families evicted from other sites. The enlargement of Dale Farm came about through the closure and subdivision of the scrap yard. New 95ftx45ft plots were marked out and sold to Sheridans, McCarthies and related families desperate to get away from harassment by notorious baliff company Constant and Co, who have displayed a seemingly personal vendetta against the Irish traveller community over recent years.
All planning applications for plots on Dale Farm were refused and three public inquiries were held. The travellers' appeals to government eventually resulted in a temporary stay for two years. In May 2005, however, Basildon Council voted to spend up to £4 million on 'direct action eviction' under Section 127 of the Town and Country Planning Act, (including also traveller families living at Hovefields Avenue, Wickford) on the basis that the hundred families on the 51 pitches had developed their homes without authority and were residing in a restricted greenbelt zone. The site was in actual fact brownfield - a large disused scrap yard - within a so-called greenbelt designated area (designated as such even though the site is only 200 yards from a dual carriageway and large retail park).. The Essex County Council even drawn up a plan to allegedly take more than 100 children at Dale Farm into temporary care as a means of pressuring their families to leave Basildon, or Essex altogether.
Enforcement Notices served upon the community were successfully contested in the High Court when in a judicial review ruling, Mr Justice Collins made it clear no eviction should take place unless acceptable alternative accommodation was provided. In his ruling on the 9th May 2008, Justice Collins was particularly critical of the violent methods used by Constant & Co., the firm of bailiffs that had carried out previous evictions and urged Basildon Council not to hire the firm again. Justice Collins writes that he watched video footage of one eviction and found the bailiffs' conduct "unacceptable." Even the presence of police had "failed to curb the excesses", he wrote.
However, on Thursday 22nd January 2009, BDC sucessfully won their appeal against this ruling, claiming that it is unable to accommodate the several hundred persons who would be rendered homeless, who include some 150 children and young people. An application to the House of Lords to appeal the decision made by the Court of Appeal was rejected.
On Saturday 10th Sept, there was a rally in support of Dale Farm. Report here. On Thursday, 25th August Lord Avebury accompanied residents to present a petition to the PM calling for the eviction to be called off.
[source: http://www.tlio.org.uk/DaleFarm-laststand/ ]
This week's episode of Disptaches on Channel 4 was on the Dale Farm eviction, background to the standoff and a examination of the wider issue of inadequate site provision by local authorities across the country and the consequences of this long-running situation for travellers and communities they are forced to settle on private land nearby. Ref: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/gypsy-eviction-reporter-feature
Dale Farm Travellers' website: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/
solidarity with travellers