Dale Farm Evictions
1 February 2006
According to a report published by The Guardian of June 8, 2005, the Basildon District Council approved a proposal to spend ÂŁ3 million on "clearing" unauthorised plots inhabited by Travellers at Crays Hill Essen. Approximately half of the Travellers at Dale Farm (about 500 people) live on unauthorised sites. In 2004 the Government passed new legislation which will force councils to identify land on which Gypsies and Travellers can build their sites but these provisions will take some time to have any effect - and may not solve the difficulties faced by the Travelling Community if the Government does not police the new duty and force councils to comply with their obligation. Meanwhile Gypsies and Travellers will continue to be forcibly evicted onto the roadside where they face a life of continual eviction and the threat of prosecution for unauthorised camping.
The Travellers sought judicial review of the Council's decision and obtained an injunction to prevent the Council from evicting them before the Court considered the merits of their application. However, not all yards are covered by the injunction, and the Council may bulldoze unprotected plots. British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott informed the Council that the Government will not help fund the eviction and recommended that the Council spend the money on creating an alternative site. Should the Council choose this option, a local Romani, Barrie Taylor, has reportedly offered 12.5 acres of his own land, and a brownfield site of 5.5 acres is also reportedly for sale in the area.
In 1994, Michael Howard, who was the British Home Secretary at the time, steered the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act through Parliament. The Act repealed the duty imposed on Councils by the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide caravan sites for Gypsies and Travellers and gave Councils and the Police new powers to evict them from unauthorised sites. Simultaneously, the Government advised Gypsies and Travellers to buy their own land and make provision for themselves. Since 1994, few new sites have been built by Councils and Gypsies and Travellers have found it almost impossible to obtain planning permission for their own sites. A 2003 survey by Lord Avebury found that 96% of Gypsies and Travellers applying to Councils for permission to settle on their land are refused and Government statistics show that about 25% of the Gypsy and Traveller population still live on unauthorised sites.
(The Guardian, ERRC)