Essex

PM backs eviction of travellers at Dale Farm, Essex

Dale Farm
Image caption David Cameron has backed the eviction of travellers living illegally at Dale Farm

Prime Minister David Cameron has given his support to plans to evict travellers from the UK's largest illegal settlement.

Hundreds of people living at Dale Farm in Essex face being forcibly evicted this month.

Mr Cameron backed Basildon Council in removing the travellers from the site, saying it was an issue of fairness.

He was responding at Prime Minister's Questions to John Baron, Conservative MP for Basildon and Billericay.

Mr Baron asked: "Will the prime minister join me in sending a very clear message to the travellers at the illegal Dale Farm site?

"We all hope they move off peacefully in order to avoid a forced eviction but, if not, be in no doubt the government fully supports Basildon Council and Essex Police in reclaiming this greenbelt land on behalf of the law-abiding majority."

'Obey the law'

Mr Cameron replied: "I certainly give my support to the Essex Police and to all the county and district councils that have been involved, and I pay tribute to the honourable member for the very hard work he's put in on this issue.

"What I would say is it's a basic issue of fairness. Everyone in this country has to obey the law, including the law about planning permission and about building on green belt land.

"And where this has been done without permission, it is an illegal development and so those people should move away."

Basildon Council is due to begin clearing the site the week commencing 19 September after a decade-long dispute over unauthorised properties on the former scrapyard.

The prime minister's response came amid reports some residents had tried to leave the site but had been prevented by barricades put in place by protesters supporting the travellers.

One of those supporters, who would only be named as Jenny, said: "There are lots of individual residents with individual plans.

"There were some people who wanted to get a particular vehicle out and the residents asked us not to move the barricade."

'Effectively imprisoned'

She said most of the people living at Dale Farm planned to stay until eviction day and wanted the barricade left in place to protect them.

"The message we've been getting is that pretty much everyone is going to stay," she said.

"There's maybe some people who have changed their minds but most haven't got anywhere else to go."

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, called on the demonstrators to allow people to leave freely.

He said: "It is ironic that a traveller who wants to leave Dale Farm now appears to have been effectively imprisoned by those who claim to be defending the residents.

"All we can do is to urge those who say they support the residents of Dale Farm to take down this scaffolding now and allow those travellers who wish to do so to leave the site without hindrance."

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