VIDEO: Travellers start to clear barricades at Dale Farm in line with court order
Published 21/09/2011 | 11:53
IRISH Travellers at the UK's largest illegal site were today due to start clearing barricades blocking access to the site, in line with a court order.
On Monday residents of Dale Farm in Essex won an 11th-hour court injunction preventing the clearance of 51 unauthorised plots until Friday.
The court injunction required Basildon Council to give a plot-by-plot breakdown of how they plan to clear Dale Farm in Essex.
But the authority wanted residents to stop blocking access to the site and to discourage non-travellers from protesting there.
Today the travellers said they and their supporters would work together this morning to move barricades blocking access to the site, allowing families to bring their trailers back on to their plots, and to allow access for emergency vehicles, but they said they would oppose any attempt at entry by bailiffs.
Resident Michelle McCarthy said: "With this court ruling we're finally hopeful that common sense will prevail, so we're moving our caravans back into Dale Farm.
"We're reasonable people and we urge the council to find a way that we can continue to live in peace as 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 that if it succeeds in overturning the injunction at a court hearing on Friday, action to clear the site could restart within hours.
In that case, the travellers would also be liable for all costs incurred by the delay. The estimated cost of the total operation is £18 million.
Hannah Roberts, from campaign group Dale Farm Solidarity, said: "In their bloody-minded over-zealousness, the council are paying £1.2 million a day for police to sit in hotel rooms and drink coffee when they could be funding schools and hospitals and building their community."
Dale Farm residents and council bosses have been at loggerheads for the past 10 years over illegal development at the site.
The homes on one half of the six-acre site are legal, but structures on the other half were put in place against planning rules and the local authority wants them to be cleared.
Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said previously: "We have complied with the judge's order and provided the plot by plot schedule as requested.
"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 onto 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.
"The council has complied with the law and the terms of the order. We now hope that the travellers do the same."
A council spokesman had no comment to add today.
A group of travellers claiming to be from Dale Farm have relocated to a public park in Luton.
Some 20 caravans have pitched up at Stockswood Park, a large public park on the outskirts of the town, a spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police said.
The group, who are claiming to be from Dale Farm, moved on to the land on Monday.
Luton Borough Council said it has no evidence to confirm that the group is from Dale Farm.
No complaints have been received from residents around the park and the police said they were keeping an eye on the situation.
"We have officers down at the park reassuring local residents and are working with the local council to move quickly on this," a police spokeswoman said.
Luton council confirmed it received reports of the travellers' arrival at the park at 9.30am on Monday.
"The council was made aware of the encampment at Stockwood Park on Monday and immediately started legal procedure for eviction. We expect to move them on very soon. The target is seven working days, assuming that there are no other complications," a spokeswoman for the council said.
Dale Farm resident Mary McCarthy said: "This is what has been happening to travelling people their whole life.
"This is why we bought land at Dale Farm.
"We have nowhere else to go and we want a place where our kids can go to school.
"If we are forced to leave Dale Farm and go to a new borough, we'll just be moved on again."
Tom Evans, another Solidarity representative, said the eviction from Dale Farm was "senseless".
Calling for more legal pitches for travellers, he said: "The families have nowhere to go and unless more traveller pitches are found we are just throwing people into poverty and spending millions of pounds endlessly hounding these people from borough to borough.
"We need to solve the core of the problem by addressing the discrimination against travellers in the planning system."