Dale Farm: Essex travellers' eviction dates set

Traveller Kathleen McCarthy said they knew they were facing a "brutal eviction"

The eviction of travellers from the UK's largest illegal site will take place during the week commencing 19 September, it has been confirmed.

About 400 people face eviction from Dale Farm, at Crays Hill, Essex.

Basildon Council said electricity to the site would be cut off but water would be left running until it had been cleared.

Travellers who need electricity for "specific health and welfare reasons" should contact the council, it said.

Families are to be evicted from 400 illegal pitches, built without planning permission.

The deadline for them to leave passed last Wednesday.

'Last resort'

A United Nations committee has called on the government to suspend the eviction but the council said it would press ahead.

Dale Farm Traveller families began to set up pitches illegally on green belt land at Dale Farm in 2001

It has sent letters to travellers, telling them enforcement notices have not been complied with and encouraging them to make homelessness applications urgently.

In a statement, Tony Ball, leader of the Conservative-run council, expressed his regret that the site clearance would have to go ahead.

"We have always made it clear that this was a last resort for us, and it is with reluctance that we have been forced to take direct action to clear the site," he said.

"We have sought a negotiated settlement and exhausted the legal system for almost 10 years.

Start Quote

They are being fairly treated in the same way as we would any other resident of the local area who built on or developed greenbelt land without permission.”

End Quote Tony Ball Leader, Basildon Council

"In that time the travellers have refused to budge, leaving us with no alternative to the action we are now about to take.

"Dale Farm has been illegally developed on green belt land. By doing this and failing to comply with various enforcement notices over a period of years the travellers have broken the law."

'Fairly treated'

He said the council was "duty bound" to see the law upheld.

"This is what I also believe the overwhelming majority of the local people expect us to do," he said.

"By taking this action we are not discriminating against travellers.

"They are being fairly treated in the same way as we would any other resident of the local area who built on or developed greenbelt land without permission."

Mr Ball said the eviction would be difficult task and that safety would be a priority.

"We still hope the residents of Dale Farm will reconsider their position and use the final two weeks notice period to move off the site peacefully," he said.

And he urged supporters of the travellers, who have established a protest camp at the site to stay within the law.

'Culturally appropriate'

The council said it was encouraging travellers on medication to contact their GP to ensure they had enough supplies during the clearance.

And it urged them to contact Essex County Council over alternative schooling arrangements.

On Friday the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the eviction would disproportionately affect family life and create hardship.

It called on the government to suspend it "until culturally appropriate accommodation is identified and provided".

But the Department for Communities and Local Government said the council was within its rights to press ahead with the eviction.

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