England

Dale Farm: Barricade gate opened but no access for bailiffs

  • 21 September 2011
  • From the section England

A main gate to keep out bailiffs at the UK's largest illegal traveller site has been opened in line with a court order.

Residents of Dale Farm in Essex won an injunction preventing the clearance of 51 unauthorised plots until Friday.

Some families who had moved trailers to the legal part of the site are now bringing them back.

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said he was "extremely disappointed" the travellers had returned and that much of the barricade at the gate remained.

"The fact that this main barricade has not yet been removed and is unlikely to be shows a blatant disregard for the law and the obligations of the injunction," he said.

'Pick and choose'

"We must not forget that the travellers have used the law to their advantage at numerous times over the past decade and most recently on Monday, yet they seem to want to pick and choose what parts of the law they obey."

The order required Basildon Council to give a plot-by-plot breakdown of how it planned to clear plots and ordered residents to allow access to the site.

The council said schedules were issued on Tuesday by email and work began on the barricades early on Wednesday.

At a meeting on Tuesday night travellers and their supporters agreed to work together to move barricades.

However, the travellers have said any attempt by bailiffs to enter the site would be opposed.

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.

'Over-zealousness'

"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."

Conservative-run Basildon Council said 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, it said.

Police and the local council have set a budget for the clearance of the site at £18m.

Hannah Roberts, from the campaign group Dale Farm Solidarity, accused the council of "bloody-minded over-zealousness" and said the authority was "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".

Margaret McCarthy, one of the leading traveller representatives at the site, said she understood some families among a group attempting to relocate to a public park in Luton had been at Dale Farm.

No complaints

About 20 caravans have pitched up at Stockwood Park, a large public park on the outskirts of the town.

"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 Borough Council said it had no evidence to confirm that the group was from Dale Farm.

No complaints had been received from local residents and police were keeping an eye on the situation, it said.

A borough spokesman said: "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."

Image caption Travellers bought the scrapyard several years ago, but the council never gave planning permission for caravan plots on the extended site.

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