Basildon, Essex: Irish Travellers In Farm Evection Showdown

31 Aug

The Dale Farm site in Essex where around 100 traveller families face eviction

Irish travellers living illegally on a site in Essex have told Sky News they would rather burn their homes than move if an eviction order goes ahead.

They have until midnight to persuade High Court judges to grant an injunction to halt the site clearance from Dale Farm which could put them on the road.

Basildon Council recently issued the 50 families with notice to leave in a planning dispute that has dragged on for 10 years. The notice expires on September 1.

The travellers own the land but, crucially, they do not have planning permission to live there.

The site is classified as green belt but the Dale Farm residents argue it was a disused scrapyard when they bought it.

Travellers told Sky News the community would not go peacefully if the planned eviction goes ahead.

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.”

Mary Slattery added: “Who is going walk out of their homes peacefully?

“In the real world if you’re living in your house and you’re getting evicted for nothing will you walk out your front door for nothing? It’s not going to happen.”

Last week around 30 supporters set up a camp at the site to offer residents tactical support and eviction-resistance training.

Activist Natalie Fox told Sky News: “After the Roma evictions in France earlier this year, people are seeing this as an international human rights issue.

“Activists are arriving here from all over Europe to take part in human-rights monitoring and to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop the bulldozers.”

Actress Vanessa Redgrave visited the site on Tuesday to pledge support and declare an eviction would breach human rights legislation.

“I have great hope that this strong, wise, warm and gentle community will have their rights protected and will not have their rights disintegrated,” she said.

Five years ago her brother Corin suffered a heart attack at a public meeting as he pleaded with Basildon councillors to save the families from eviction.

But some residents from the nearby village of Crays Hill hope the eviction will go ahead.

Len Gridley, whose garden backs on to the site, claims his house has lost half its value since the travellers moved in.

When we arrived at his home he attempted to burn down plastic sheeting that activists had put up over his fence. He was later arrested.

Basildon Council has offered the families alternative housing and say they are not discriminating against their lifestyle.

Leader Tony Ball said: “The legal process has, after a decade, finally been exhausted and the council now has the job of upholding the law.

“We have offered help with accommodation and we’re aware of issues around elderly and very young residents on the site.”

If the eviction does go ahead it could cost the council £8m.

The Traveller Community Of Dale Farm Face Eviction

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