Dale Farm: One week on from start of traveller eviction

Just over a week ago the international media circus was pitched up on a small patch of land close to the village of Crays Hill in Essex.

After a 10-year battle between the local council and travellers, police and bailiffs began the process of evicting residents living on unauthorised plots at a former scrapyard at Dale Farm.

A week after those dramatic scenes were played out across TV and radio, the media has gone.

What remains are the bailiffs and contractors working on behalf of Basildon Council to clear 49 of the 54 pitches and a number of travellers from Dale Farm who have moved their caravans onto the adjacent legal site in Oak Lane.

In the days since the violent confrontation was played out on the nation's media outlets, there is now a notable absence of tension.

Tower gone

Whilst bulldozers, lorries and flat bed trucks went back and forth onto the site, nearby the travellers continued about their business, vans came and went, children played in the street.

One of the Dale Farm residents even admitted the bailiffs and contractors were "quite friendly".

As of 26 October, 36 plots had been secured and fenced off by bailiffs, with hard standing already removed from nine.

The first obvious visual difference from last week is the place where a 40ft (12m) high scaffolding tower once stood at the entrance to the site.

Image caption Signs of what has taken place over the past few weeks are still very evident

In the weeks leading up to the start of the eviction, this became the iconic image of defiance by the travellers and their supporters.

It was where banners with slogans such as "We Won't Go" were draped, and to which protesters had chained themselves.

This is now gone, replaced by a pile of tyres, broken pallets and bent poles.

Opposite is one of the unauthorised plots, which has now been cleared and its hard standing broken up. Forty-nine plots will eventually look the same.

'Good progress'

Further along are empty plots, the caravans having been moved or removed, leaving just gravel, fences and everyday belongings such a chopping boards and children's toys.

The area that was once the base for the protesters, Camp Constant, has been fenced off.

A little over a week ago it was the heart of their defiant stance, and now it is just another empty plot littered with bins, debris and flags.

All the while, bulldozers work to clear plots of caravans, chalets and hard standing.

For a decade Basildon Council battled to remove the travellers, who developed land on the green belt site without planning permission.

Image caption Many of the caravans have moved off the unauthorised plots to the nearby legal site

The full cost of the eviction process is not yet clear, but it has been estimated it could reach £18m.

According the Conservative leader of Basildon Council, Tony Ball, work is going to plan.

"There's no doubt that good progress has been made. In the main, with the travellers leaving the site last Thursday [means] it is much easier to carry on with the work.

"I am sure with the £8m that the council budgeted for this on a worse case scenario, we are well within the budget."

The travellers, however, show no intention of letting the issue end.

Richard Sheridan, of the Dale Farm Housing Association, said: "There's always going to be caravans on the Dale Farm and there's always going to be caravans on the legal side of it.

"So they've achieved nothing for what they set out to do. Dale Farm is going to be there for the next 2,000 years."

As I leave along Oak Road, the work continues. But whilst the media have moved away from this small corner of Essex, the saga will continue for many months.

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