Monday 11 December 2017

Dale Farm: Irish travellers move back after evictions

Caravans are parked up on the illegal side of the Dale Farm travellers site following the completion of clearance works by Basildon Council in Crays Hill in Essex. Photo: PA
Traveller Patrick Egan speaks to the media at outside Dale Farm illegal travellers site after the completion of the Basildon council clearance operation. Photo: PA

Ben Kendall

AT LEAST 10 families have moved back onto the UK's largest illegal travellers' site after bailiffs and council officials completed their clearance operation.

The action to remove caravans and chalets from 51 unauthorised plots on Dale Farm, Essex, was completed on Monday and Basildon Council has obtained an injunction to prevent reoccupation of the site.

It followed a major police-led operation last month to remove activists from the site which resulted in violent clashes.

But this morning, caravans, mostly owned by Irish travellers, had pulled back onto the illegal half of the site and many remain on the legal side, exceeding the authorised capacity.

At least one caravan houses three generations of one family, ranging from young children to a woman in her sixties.

Some said they planned to stay unless the council provided an alternative, others are resigned to the fact they will be forced to move on.

Council bosses said they were monitoring the situation and would resist any attempt to reoccupy Dale Farm.

Patrick Egan, who is entitled to remain in his house on the illegal site, said: "Nobody would want to live here - the site is a mess, it's contaminated with asbestos and we have to use a generator for power.

"I am allowed to stay but I don't want to. We have come back because we have nowhere to go.

"We fully expect the council to serve notices on us, telling us to leave.

"If that happens, we will occupy car parks and roadsides in Basildon, anywhere that we can get access to.

"The council simply hasn't provided anywhere else for us to go.

"If we wanted to, we could take a digger to this and flatten it back again, no problem. Who knows what the future holds."

The council has removed hard standings and placed earth embankments across the six acre site, preventing travellers resettling on their old plots.

Children's toys lie in the rubble and three residents - including Mr Egan who has a broken ankle - say they have been injured while negotiating the uneven ground.

Travellers have parked alongside the plots and said they planned to see out the winter on Dale Farm.

Daniel Sheridan, 67, said: "This isn't home anymore. It is cold and like living in a war zone. But we need to stay somewhere and can't be out on the road over winter."

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said attempts to reoccupy the site would be unacceptable and put them in contempt of court.

He added: "Likewise, we are now looking carefully at any breaches on the legal pitches.

"The travellers are fully aware of how many caravans and mobile homes they can have on any one site. They must not exceed this and if they do we will be taking action.

"The only way forward to the travellers in the long-term is to obey the law, follow rules and regulations and cooperate with local councils like ours."

He said that the council would continue to enforce the law and insisted the clearance was not motivated by prejudice.

Mr Ball added: "Prosecution against law-breaking is not persecution - it is right and proper and we will follow this course of action wherever it is deemed appropriate."

The clearance followed a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the travellers' site. At its peak, some 400 people lived on Dale Farm.

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