Dale Farm eviction: Residents prepare for confrontation

The only way in and out of the site for travellers is on a gangplank

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Residents at the UK's largest illegal travellers' site at Dale Farm have prepared barricades as they await a confrontation with bailiffs.

Protesters have wedged two cars and a Russian military truck behind the entrance and said three people will chain themselves to the gate at dawn on Wednesday.

Earlier, Basildon Council officials met travellers at the police compound at Barleylands near the site.

The talks broke down after 10 minutes.

It had been an attempt to resolve the dispute peacefully but Grattan Puxon, of the Gypsy Council, claimed Basildon Council was unwilling to negotiate and was "mustering police and bailiffs" to begin the eviction at 08:30 BST on Wednesday.

Fall in numbers

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said the travellers had unrealistic expectations about the meeting, which was about "how" the eviction should take place, and not a negotiation about "if and when".

At the scene

During the past seven weeks defences have gone up at Dale Farm and plans laid down for lawful resistance.

As well as sharing their struggle, activists have run adult literacy classes and developed a close bond and trust with the travellers.

The Camp Constant protesters are very much in charge of the illegal camp now but this time the travellers stand alongside them. And they expect more protesters to flood in.

One traveller, Mary Slattery, told me she would be locking herself on to the barricade and was "prepared to die" - defiance that will be tested within the next day or so.

But I believe this is not some childish adventure. The reality is far grimmer.

If the protesters and the travellers confront the bailiffs, then it is difficult to see this remaining a calm and passive situation.

After 10 years of living illegally on the site, now it is just a waiting game. This time, finally, Basildon Council appears to hold all the cards.

A council spokesman said it would be "moving resources into a compound on the site" in preparation for the clearances.

Several caravans had been crammed on to the few plots which the bailiffs cannot touch, a spokesman for the residents said.

The number of supporters inside the site has fallen from more than 100 a month ago, when the council was first expected to begin the clearance, to fewer than 50.

A similar number of travellers remain in their homes.

On Monday, residents were refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling giving Basildon Council the go-ahead to evict them.

Travellers had asked for leave to appeal against a decision to allow the council to clear 49 plots.

Lord Justice Sullivan, at the Court of Appeal, said they could not challenge the decision by Mr Justice Ouseley.

Mr Ball added: "We now believe that those who want to leave peacefully have already done so and those who are left have made it clear that they have no intention of co-operating with the council.

"Resistance and violence as some are now suggesting will be in nobody's interest - especially not the travellers or their families.

"We now must get on with the difficult job of clearing Dale Farm in as safe and dignified a manner as possible - and that is what we will now do."

Harlow council in Essex has begun to dig trenches around its parkland after information suggested travellers evicted from Dale Farm could move there.

The authority said it had a good relationship with local travellers, but it needed to protect green spaces.

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