Residents of Largest Traveller Community in the UK Face Eviction
20 November 2007
According to information published by the European Roma Information Office (ERIO) on 8 June 2007, fourteen families living on eleven properties at the Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, face eviction by the Basildon Development Control and Traffic Management Committee. Calls to suspend the eviction until alternate sites can be developed for the families have reportedly been ignored by the council.
Dale Farm is noted to be the largest Traveller community in the UK, with over 1000 residents, all of whom live on land that they legally own. Local councils, however, have been attempting to evict Traveller families from the property over the last five years. The area on which Dale Farm is located is part of the "Green Belt" around London, meant to provide an area of undeveloped land preventing "urban sprawl." However, Dale Farm, when purchased by the Travellers, was an abandoned scrap yard and thus far from an undeveloped green space; further, a new 800-home (non-Traveller) development is currently under construction on the adjacent Gardner Lane, according to ERIO.
The Basildon Committee has not provided a plan for the relocation of the affected Travellers, though plans suggested by the Travellers themselves, including attempts to build a 15-family caravan park in Pitsea, have been rejected. There is a pending judicial review, though the eleven properties facing immediate eviction are not covered by the temporary injunction protecting the rest of the Dale Farm until the review is completed.
ERIO also reported that there is particular concern that the eviction process itself will be especially destructive. The company ordered to carry out the evictions, Constant & Co., which specialises in evicting Travellers, has in the past crushed and set on fire Traveller caravans instead of removing them, according to ERIO.