Since the 1st of September 2011 over 80 residents of Dale Farm in Essex, Britain’s largest travellers’ community, have lived in constant fear of forced eviction from their homes by bailiffs, hired by Basildon council, and police.
Water and electricity have been cut off from the site, leaving the young and elderly vulnerable, despite outcries by UN human rights monitors and Amnesty International.
The council argues that the homes were built on land with Greenbelt status, but the original owner of the land states that when he sold it to the travellers 10 years ago, Basildon Council’s Engineering Department had itself put down tracks, leveled with hard core, to Dale farm, thus making it a breaker’s yard.
This confirms that it is in fact a brownfield site and reveals how the Council has paid little notice of its alleged Greenbelt status in the past. But after 10 years of living peacefully on the site, why this sudden interest? Well perhaps it is to do with the fact that although the Conservatives have had a majority in Basildon Council since 2003, following the 2009 local election all 5 councilors are now Conservative, led by Tory politician John Baron.
Despite numerous applications and appeals, the plots in Dale Farm (about 52 out of 97) without planning permission have been repeatedly denied planning consent. Given that 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall, and that most of the travellers are of Irish heritage with some Romani families, it is clear that this eviction is in fact a shameful example of 21st century ethnic cleansing.
It’s also hard to ignore the sheer immorality that during times of such severe austerity, the Tory-led government has managed to dish up in excess of £18 million inpublic money to spend on the eviction.
Leaked to a local newspaper by a council source, the date of the eviction was to be the 19th of September, but at the last minute Dale Farm won an appeal to halt the eviction until after a court hearing on Friday the 23rd, giving Dale Farm the opportunity to lodge two further judicial reviews over the site, potentially delaying the eviction by several more weeks.
However, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart told the court on Friday that the “ultimate eviction” was “in many cases going to happen”, and it could potentially begin at any moment following this weekend.
It has been a long and bitter struggle for Dale Farm and this struggle has been subject, of their own strength and will, to an impressive amount of media coverage, resulting in many admiring onlookers. But if we are to seriously engage with their struggle we need to be prepared to go there for the eviction date to resist and demonstrate that we will not tolerate racial discrimination and oppression in the 21st century.
Sign up for their text alerts and emails on the website www.dalefarm.wordpress.com and be prepared to go there as soon as the eviction call is given. You can get to Dale Farm by taking the Southend train from Liverpool Street Station to Wickford (30 minutes).