Wednesday 13 December 2017

VIDEO: Council orders Irish travellers at illegal UK halting site to clear barricades blocking entry

Ben Kendall and Margaret Davis

Travellers at the UK's largest illegal site were tonight urged to clear barricades and stop non-residents from protesting, in line with a court order.

Basildon Council gave a plot by plot breakdown of how they plan to clear Dale Farm in Essex, as required by a court injunction put in place yesterday.

In return the local authority wants residents to stop blocking access to the site and to discourage non-travellers from protesting there.

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said: "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."

Dale Farm residents have until Thursday to raise any issues with the council.

Yesterday they won an eleventh-hour court injunction preventing the clearance of 51 unauthorised plots until Friday.

Residents and their supporters are expected to open the heavily barricaded main gate to the site tomorrow, to allow in a school bus to pick up children.

They had already agreed to admit a planning inspector onto the site.

However non-traveller protesters, who have come to the area to support residents in their battle to remain, insisted that despite that concession the barricades will remain in place.

Campaigner Sam Walters said: "Basildon Council must take this time to fulfil its responsibility to find and approve a legal and culturally suitable site for the Dale Farm community.

"It is imperative that the council engages in a meaningful and appropriate way with residents in fulfilling the injunction.

"A leaked source has revealed that the council intends to communicate with the residents via email. The council is aware of the fact that, due to limited opportunities for schooling for most travellers, a large proportion of the Dale Farm residents are illiterate, and have virtually no access to email."

Meanwhile, Basildon Council confirmed that if it succeeds in overturning the injunction preventing clearance of the Essex site at a court hearing on Friday, action could recommence within hours.

A spokesman said: "No decision has been taken but this is a seven-day operation and we could move in on the Saturday."

In that case, the travellers would also be liable for all costs incurred by the delay. The estimated cost of the total operation is £18m (€21m).

Dale Farm residents and council bosses have been at loggerheads for the past ten 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.

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