London: Dale Farm Travellers Set Up New Camp In Luton Park

21 Sep


Dale Farm residents had built barricades around the site to resist bailiffs

Dale Farm residents had built barricades around the site to resist bailiffs. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A group of around 20 caravans, believed to be from the Dale Farm Travellers’ site in Essex, has travelled 60 miles north-west and arrived at a park near Luton.

The Travellers have stopped at Stockwood Park, Bedfordshire, saying they have nowhere else to go. They say more caravans could arrive from the Essex site.

Residents of Dale Farm and Basildon council are locked in a standoff after residents won a last-minute emergency injunction to prevent an eviction that was due to start on Monday.

Both parties now await a judgment at the high court in London on Friday, which will decide whether the planned eviction, estimated to be costing Basildon council up to £18m, can go ahead.

Luton borough council has begun legal action to remove the Travellers from the park, a public area with a golf course, gardens and a horse-riding school.

One of the Travellers who had made the 60-mile trip to Luton said they had lost everything. “I moved to Luton rather than wait for the bailiffs because my health was suffering,” he told the Sun. “My son and daughter were already in schools in Essex. Then we had to move and lost it all.”

He said he thought more families would join. “The word has now spread back to Dale Farm. There will be 30 or 40 more caravans coming from Dale Farm. We have nowhere else to go.”

A spokesman for Luton borough council said: “The council was made aware of the encampment and immediately started the standard legal procedure for eviction. We expect to move them on very soon.”

Meanwhile on Dale Farm, Travellers were due to start clearing a six-metre barricade in order to let officials on to the site, in line with a court order granted on Monday.

At around 12.45pm the gate to Dale Farm was opened and five caravans lined up outside went back into the site, to whoops and cheers from travellers and supporters.

Some shouted “Welcome home”, while others chanted “We won’t go, we won’t go.”

Michelle Sheridan, who personally brought the Dale Farm case to the high court on Monday, said there was a sense of jubilation at the site.

She said: “People are moving on as we speak, I didn’t think it would feel this wonderful but it does. It just feels good to see those caravans moving back on.”

Basildon council warned Travellers against using the removal of the barricades as an opportunity to move trailers back on to the site.

Tony Ball, leader of the council, said: “We are pleased at reports that the Travellers are planning to use their common sense and remove barricades to enable access for emergency vehicles.

“We have not yet seen any evidence of the barricades being removed and I hope words will turn into action.

“However, we are concerned by claims that families who have sensibly and peacefully already left the site may attempt to move back ahead of the high court hearing on Friday.

“I would urge Travellers not to move back onto site ahead of Friday’s hearing.”

Monday’s last-minute injunction prevented the council from clearing 51 unauthorised plots until after this Friday’s hearing, and requires the council to provide a detailed plot-by-plot breakdown of what it plans to remove.

After the court ruling, the council has repeatedly asked residents – and up to 100 protesters who have been supporting the Travellers – to leave the site and stop blocking access to it.

Dale Farm residents said they would start removing barricades, but said they would oppose any attempt at entry by bailiffs.

“With this court ruling we’re finally hopeful that common sense will prevail, so we’re moving our caravans back into Dale Farm,” resident Michelle McCarthy said. “We’re reasonable people and we urge the council to find a way that we can continue to live in peace as a community. We’re all working together to open the gates, and we’re so grateful to our friends and supporters for helping us.”

Basildon council has said the Travellers would be liable for any costs caused by the delay, which campaigners have estimated to be £1.2m a day.

Hannah Roberts, from the campaign group Dale Farm Solidarity, said: “In their bloody-minded overzealousness, the council are paying £1.2m a day for police to sit in hotel rooms and drink coffee when they could be funding schools and hospitals and building their community.”

Basildon council’s leader, Tony Ball, said the council had complied with the judge’s order and provided the plot-by-plot schedule.

He said: “The injunction also places obligations on the Travellers to discourage any further protest from non-Dale Farm residents, and to dismantle the barricades and any obstructions preventing access on to the site. We have made repeated pleas to the Travellers to ensure health and safety is considered on site, and these measures would help enable a safer operation for all concerned.”

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