Camp Constant: Man arrested near Dale Farm travellers' site

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A man has been arrested close to the UK's largest illegal travellers' site, after a protest camp in Essex was set up ahead of a planned mass eviction.

The 52-year-old man, who lives near the site, was arrested on Saturday afternoon on suspicion of threats to cause criminal damage.

Protesters set up Camp Constant on Saturday morning and attracted supporters to Dale Farm in Crays Hill.

Travellers on illegal pitches have until midnight on Wednesday to leave.

The arrested man has been bailed until 23 October.

'Not all prejudiced'

Basildon Borough Council has given eviction notices to 86 families at Dale Farm, following a 10-year-legal battle.

The travellers own the site, but half the pitches are illegal and were erected without planning permission.

Supporters and well-wishers from as far as Sweden, Holland and Italy have been at Camp Constant.

Laura Gingell said she got a train from the Midlands and was among about 100 others at Camp Constant on Saturday.

She stayed overnight, as did up to 50 people, with numbers rising to about 70 supporters on Sunday, she said.

"It's about letting the travellers know that not all settled people are prejudiced and people want to support them and negotiate a way for them to stay in their homes.

'Very frightened'

"There's a really good mood there, it's really lovely. Last night we were sitting around the campfire and talking, and the residents joined us for lunch and a meeting.

"There is lots to do, with 50 people you just have to keep the kitchen going.

"Of course there is some trepidation - some people are very frightened, for some it's been a long time since they've moved and they've become infirm.

"But we are trying to be prepared and as aware as we can be about what's happening."

The council said forced clearance was a last resort but that it was open to discuss future accommodation needs with the families.

The Department of Communities and Local Government said the developments at Dale Farm had been found to be in breach of planning law and that Basildon council was within its rights to evict the travellers.

Council officials, supported by Essex Police, are expected to take action to clear the site next month if the travellers do not leave.

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