The Dale Farm Eviction Live Blog: The Travellers’ Last Stand
DALE Farm Live Blog: The forcible eviction of the non-moving travellers from Crays Hill, Essex. It’s the biggest travellers’ site in Europe. (Previously.)
September 20 2011:
Only the Daily Mail leads with the story of Dale Farm:
“FIASCO DOWN ON EVICTION FARM”
The feeling is that this is front-page news because the travellers’ have detailed two young blonde women to jump for joy in front of the cameras, much like A-level students celebrating their exam success.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled at the High Court in London that the proposed measures ‘may go further’ than the terms of the enforcement notices.
The Mail sees anarchists:
Instead, the rag-tag mix of professional activists, benefit claimants and students had just one thing on their minds: Anarchy. Indeed, a slogan crudely written in blue paint on a wicker fence which surrounds the protesters’ headquarters aptly sums up their feelings. It reads: ‘Vandalism: beautiful as a rock in a bailiff’s face’.
The Mail also sees justice:
One, who gave her name as Mary, said: ‘Thank God for British justice.’
Simon Heffer clacks his marmalde-coated tongue:
Part of the bedrock of our country and our way of life is a belief in the rule of law, and in its equal application. If it is not seen to be applied equally then confidence in it will erode: as will confidence in any politician who allows the rule of law to be debauched in this way. The police must vigorously support a council doing its legal duty: failure to do so will provoke others to wonder why they have to respect planning laws – and indeed, laws on things other than planning.
This is what is really at stake at Dale Farm. We saw in last month’s riots that a significant number of people see no reason to live within the law. Letting Dale Farm carry on regardless would simply encourage more to take that view. And then, what price anarchy?
September 19 2011:
16:45: Dale Farm residents have won a last-gasp injunction restraining Basildon Council from clearing structures from the site pending a further hearing at London’s High Court on Friday.
Update 5: Michael White looks at the media debate:
The trouble is that there’s usually two sides to any story, including this one. I worry when the version I hear on the BBC or sometimes read in the Guardian or Observer is so much at odds with the account I read in the Daily Mail and elsewhere. In the latter version, the protracted battle (it’s lasted 10 years) reflects the willingness of Traveller communities to defy the law, extend their camps illegally, fill local schools with unruly/itinerant kids and engage in antisocial, even criminal, activity. On angry days – today is not one of them – the Mail version prints photos of houses owned by Dale Farm residents elsewhere in England or – last week’s tale – in towns and villages in Ireland to which travelling folk return for an extended family knees-up at Christmas. In Fergal Keane’s version [ the Irish BBC reporters detailed to cover the story] his travelling fellow-countrymen are finally asserting their human rights in England, in the Mail’s they’re abusing other people’s.
The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain has received a letter to David Cameron from 11 year old Eileen O’Brien:
Yvonne MacNamara, Director of ITMB said:
”Eileen’s voice is one of up to a 150 children who will be forcefully removed from their homes when Basildon Council evict the residents of Dale Farm Travellers site on Monday 19th September. Over a hundred of the Dale Farm children – including Eileen – attend the local primary school at Crays Hill and this eviction will rip them away from their friends, their education and possibly from their future prospects. “
Click to read and check spelling.
Electricity supplies to Dale Farm appear to have been cut. Televisions and other appliances went dead just before 4pm.
Craig Murray wonders:
The biggest mystery to me is why the travellers wish to live next to such very unpleasant people in Basildon.
A sign hangs on the gates:
“Danger of Death: Behind this gate a woman is attached by her neck. if you attempt to open this gate you will kill her”
It’s true,. The woman’s name is Emma. she has a bike lock and chain about her neck.
The travellers own the land but, crucially, they do not have planning permission to live there. Half of the six-acre site, which has planning consent, will remain.
So. what is the travellers’ crime?
It’s Green Belt Land.
Brendan O’Neill writes:
They own the land upon which they live. In 2002, the Traveller John Sheridan bought it for £120,000. Their crime is that they subsequently built homes or parked caravans on the land, which is a big no-no because it’s part of the Green Belt. No one is allowed to build on the belt, you see, because it is intended as a barrier between town and country, between built-up mass society with its noisy, grubby inhabitants and the more rarefied, hushed countryside where wealthy people have holiday cottages. By building on the belt, the Dale Farm residents have effectively rebelled against a decades-old system for keeping town away from country.
Since it was introduced through the Town and Country Planning Act in the 1940s, the Green Belt has become an increasingly restrictive device. Most alarmingly, even if you own land on the Green Belt, you are not at liberty to build anything on it. As Barry Cullingworth points out in his book Town and Country Planning in the UK, the aims of the Green Belt are to “check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas” (why are towns always said to “sprawl”, like some kind of diseased blob?) and to “assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment”. Feverishly policed by such snooty organisations as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Green Belt is effectively the legal tool that keeps townies separate from countryfolk. Yet as Cullingworth says, while the Green Belt may be “hallowed” (and it really is – just try having a debate about it with someone from the CPRE), it has numerous problems – not least the fact that it “lays such a great emphasis on protection and lesser emphasis on instruments for meeting development needs”. That is, the real message sent by the Green Belt, and by the almost psychotic upkeep of it, is that development is bad – it’s “sprawling”, an “encroachment” – whereas green is good. And the problem with the Dale Farm people is that they have “sprawled” from town into greenery; they have “encroached” upon land that is considered eco-sacred and pure.
The BBC says: Those remaining have said they will resist eviction and have been building reinforcements at the six-acre site. Police have been drafted in from all over the country but say they will only act if there is a threat to safety…
The police have set up a temporary base at Barleylands in Billericay.
Tony Ball, Basildon Council leader, says:
“We wanted to do everything possible to keep residents updated about the operation and to listen to any concerns and address any final requirements. It would appear that we now have no line of communication to the Dale Farm residents. We are very concerned that tension has increased and it may now make our job of clearing the site in a safe and orderly manner even more difficult.”
Resident Kathleen McCarthy, a spokesman for the community who has lived on the site for 10 years, said: “We are living on a hope that they will realise we are not animals – we are humans.”
Nora Sheridan said: “They will burn what they have up there… they will use their homes and cars as shields and set fire to them because they’re not going to let people come in.”
The Mail finds an “anarchist”:
One anarchist said: ‘It’s going to be brutal and it’s going to be bloody. We are calling it the Battle of Basildon. We will fight off the bailiffs with everything we have. They are not going to get through our defences.’
Barricading themselves into their own site are around 400 travellers and their supporters vowing to put up “every fight” to save their homes. They claim to have enough supplies to last 12 months and a “few surprises” to stop the forces of authority. Just yards away in an adjacent field, hundreds of bailiffs were setting up their base, a complex of portable cabins and metal driveways behind barbed wire. Rising above the site was a watchtower on the end of a crane, with CCTV cameras trained on the camp…
Dora McCarthy, 50, a mother of five and grandmother of two, said things were “going to get ugly”.
“They are pretty rough, but we can be pretty rough too,” she said. “We have supporters coming from all over – from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and even Germany. We have a few surprises up our sleeves. Cars to set on fire, gas cylinders to explode that kind of thing.”
Hundreds of supporters have joined the demonstration, setting up an adjacent base known as Camp Constant. Yoshka Pundrik, a university lecturer from London and member of the Dale Farm Solidarity pressure group, said he could not sit back and watch “such an injustice”.
“This is the first generation of travellers who have somewhere to live because laws stop them moving around,” he said. “Now they are being told they have to move. It is just shocking.”
Tony Ball is the leader of Basildon Council. He says:
There are three important points to make about Basildon Council’s actions
• Dale Farm is fundamentally a planning dispute. The travellers’ site has been illegally developed on green belt land. By doing this and failing to comply with various enforcement notices the travellers’ have broken the law.
• The clearance has absolutely nothing to do with the travellers’ choice of lifestyle or background. They are being treated exactly the same way as any other citizen.
• We now have a difficult operation which we will carry out in a safe and lawful fashion. We will continue to offer housing assistance to those who may become homeless as a result of the clearance and we will work closely with other agencies, such as the NHS, to provide necessary support for the more vulnerable members of the community during the operation.
There is considerable speculation in the media and elsewhere about the likely scale of opposition to the clearance.
Confrontation will not ultimately aid the travellers’ case. Basildon Council has the task of upholding the law of the land as it applies to everyone, and that is what I believe the majority of residents expect us to do.
We have informed the travellers that the site clearance will begin week commencing 19 September. We now have a difficult operation to carry out in a safe and lawful way.
In the meantime I am making a final appeal to the residents to leave Dale Farm peacefully. I would also ask any visitors to the site or anyone who truly has the travellers’ interests at heart to urge them to do this as well.”
Where can the travellers go?
There has also been an offer of council accommodation but that is not suitable for travellers, according to Joseph Jones from the Gypsy Council.
He said: “The same way that when people were flooded out of their homes in the north of England not so long ago and relocated to fields with static caravans, after a period of time people were saying they were going crazy, they couldn’t live in a static, they were brought up in a house; that is their cultural bias, we can understand that. That is the same situation for people who were born, brought up in and always have lived in static caravans. It is bad for their health if they are forced to live in a situation they are not comfortable and happy in, their physical and mental health will suffer.”
…new evidence has revealed many of them are connected to homes in Rathkeale, a town in the Republic of Ireland which is often regarded as a spiritual home for travellers.
They deny any links but a number of them are listed on deeds, others are on planning applications to build property and many are still listed on the electoral roll.
David McPherson-Davis, an Essex parish councillor, said: ‘This appears to confirm suspicions people have had for a number of years following various inquiries carried out into the background of the people on the Dale Farm site.
‘It indicates there are alternative places for, at least, some of the families to return to. It begs the question, why do they keep denying they have anywhere to go?..”
But new evidence gathered by the surrounding community has found one couple, who were recently married in London, own a plot of land in Rathkeale and recently won planning permission to build a property there. There are also examples of women who use their maiden names at Dale Farm but who appear on deeds of Irish properties with their husbands.”
The Guardian says:
Residents have submitted planning applications for smaller sites on land where the owners have signalled they would be happy with a Traveller community. McCarthy said she did not understand why Basildon had not waited for these to be considered.
Bailiffs from Constant and Company will have to make their way past reinforced barricades and a newly built wall to keep them out. Half of the six-acre site, which has planning consent, will remain.
Political Scarpbook claims:
Official materials from the bailiffs tasked with the removal of residents from Dale Farm travellers’ site in Essex refers to gypsies using the pejorative term “pikeys”, Scrapbook can reveal. The word, which has been viewed by British courts as racist, appears in a list of phrases used by Constant & Company to drive traffic to their website.
Described as the UK’s “most notorious anti-traveller bailiff firm”, the Bedfordshire-based company has been awarded a contract, thought to be worth more than two million pounds, to evict 86 families. The group lost a High Court appeal to stay in their homes after consistently being denied council planning permission for pitches on land which they have owned for ten years.
Paddy Doherty is the Big Brother winner who lives on a travellers’ site in Manchester:
“If you take a fish out of water it will drown straightaway. Our population will drown like that. I’d love it if people of all nationalities get together and show their support for the people getting evicted when they shouldn’t be getting evicted.”