Dale Farm travellers deliver petition to Downing Street

Representatives of people living on an Essex travellers' site have delivered a petition to No 10 Downing Street protesting at plans to evict them.

Residents of Dale Farm, Crays Hill, near Basildon, collected 1,600 signatures on the petition.

Although the travellers own the site, half of its pitches are illegal and do not have planning permission.

After a lengthy legal battle, Basildon Council gave notice to 86 families to leave Dale Farm by 31 August.

The delegation visiting Downing Street on Thursday included Dale Farm resident Mary Ann McCarthy.

Asked what her message for Prime Minister David Cameron was, she said: "Please, I'm begging you so hard - I'll kiss your feet - leave us there where we are.

"Stop the eviction until we find an alternative place for us to live."

'So stupid'

Also present was Lord Avebury, a member of the House of Lords and vice-chairman of the all-party group on travellers.

"The eviction at Dale Farm is just so stupid," he said.

"I can't believe it's going to happen because you have got 50 families who are living peacefully on the site who are going to be thrown on the roadside with the disruption that's going to cause for family life."

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

In a statement on its website, council leader Tony Ball said: "The council has spent the last 10 years attempting to find a peaceful solution to the illegal site at Dale Farm.

"A forced clearance has always been a reluctant last resort for us, but the travellers have left us with little option after exhausting the legal process."

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