Dale Farm, in Crays Hill, Essex, is the UK’s largest Travellers’ community, consisting of nearly a hundred separate properties, lying well outside the village and made up of extended family plots or yards.
Most are owned by Travellers of Irish heritage, although some Romani families also own yards. The estate is divided in two sections, the front part (about 45 plots) has planning permission; while the back part (52 plots) despite numerous applications and appeals, has been refused planning consent, even though the site was previously a disused scrap yard! 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall.
Caving in to racial prejudice, Basildon District Council (BDC) has set aside 8 million pounds to demolish the homes in the back 52 plots and have set aside an additional £10 million for policing, of which the Home Office have contributed £6 million. Eric Pickles’s Communities and Local Government office have contributed another £1.2m.
Families have been given until midnight August 31 to abandon their homes or face a forced eviction. The community has said they’ll leave peacefully if alternative sites can be found, but Basildon council have refused to do so. We view the destruction of half this community as ethnic cleansing.
On the invitation of the community, we will be setting up a human rights monitoring base there, “Camp Constant” from August 27th, kicking it off with a training weekend. We are asking for people to pledge to spend a night there, as an eviction attempt is expected shortly thereafter. See http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/hrm for more details. We also have activity days every Saturday http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/activity.
The planning history of the area has shown that the site had been used without planning permission since early 1990’s for a variety of industrial uses. In 1992 BDC issued Enforcement Notices against various unauthorised commercial activities that were being pursued on the site. Part of the land at the east side of the site was previously the subject of two temporary consents for the breaking of motor vehicles, sale of vehicle parts and dealing in scrap metals. This use ceased following the vacation of the land by the business proprietors in 2001.
When the unauthorised development of the application site first came to the Council’s attention in September 2003, the land to the east of the site had been used as a scrap yard from 1978 until 2001 under a permission granted by the Council to be used as such. If an exception was allowed for the scrap metal yard, surely an exception can be made for a vulnerable minority group to continue to live there, particularly given that many of them have already been through traumatic experiences of forced eviction.
In May 2005, the BDC voted to take direct action, setting aside some three million euro for an eviction and demolition operation. Residents sought a Judicial Review of this decision and won in the High Court. This judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 22 January 2009. An appeal to the House of Lords was denied on 14 May 2009. After extensive research into the needs of Travellers and Gypsies in the UK, on 20 July the Department for Communities and Local Government informed BDC and the Gipsy Council that the District Council is required to provide sufficient land for 62 (sixty two) additional pitches. This requirement can be easily met by BDC if it decides to grant planning permission for the 52 (fifty two) unauthorised pitches already in existence at Dale Farm.
As mentioned before, the main desire of the families is to not move from Dale Farm; they wish to get planning permission for permanent residence to continue living in the site they privately own.
We say no to home demolitions, and no to ethnic cleansing!