Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Travellers evicted from Essex site

Police and bailiffs have moved in to shift travellers who had set up a permanent site on greenbelt land in Essex. The forced removal began around midday some three hours after representatives from the local council served the travellers a final notice to move off. Last month, Basildon District Council gave 28 days' notice for those living on the greenbelt site at Hovefields Drive to leave the camp.

There were only seven unauthorised pitches from the site, but the eviction is seen as a trial run for an expected mass eviction of another illegal traveller encampment at Dale Farm.

Gratton Puxon, a founder of the Gypsy Council, told the BBC, "We're very alarmed by this. We hope people will have some sympathy with families who look like being put out and have nowhere to go."

But Basildon Council said that the forced eviction was the last resort. Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said, "This action, which is supported by the courts, is the final part of a legal process which has lasted many years. I am extremely disappointed that direct action has become necessary. The council has done all it can to encourage the travellers to vacate voluntarily. However, Basildon Council has an obligation to protect its greenbelt from unauthorised development."

At around 9 am police and bailiffs began to arrive at the site and set up a holding area for the media who soon followed. There were a few harsh words exchanged between some travellers and bailiffs but there was no major confrontation. However as bailiffs from Constant and Co made a move to enter the site with a tow truck some self-styled human rights protesters blocked their way.

There then followed a few scuffles with bailiffs removing them forcibly. The manhandling of 72-year-old Ann Kobayashi created particular anger with one traveller Catherine McCann exclaiming, "she's not a dog, she's a human being" [Echo]. Two protesters were arrested by police for a breach of the peace and there was another brief stand-off when a vehicle was parked in the entrance blocking access. But within half an hour mechanical diggers had moved onto the site.

Outnumbered, and out-gunned, the travellers left of their own volition, but where they were heading remained unclear. While the eviction is seen as a victory by Basildon Council but Dale Farm may be a far more difficult operation. Millions have already been spent in legal battles and the council face further court action after travellers won an injunction at the High Court putting the demolition on hold [Telegraph].

Dale Farm is part of an Irish Traveller site on Oak Lane in Crays Hill, Essex built on a former scrap yard and housing over 1,000 people. It is the largest Irish Traveller site in the UK and has been the subject of a long running dispute as to the legality of the site. The land is owned by the travellers and has since been reclassified as green belt. The Irish Traveller community is an entirely separate ethnic group to the Romany Gypsies and the two should not be confused. Dale Farm is exclusively occupied by members of the Irish Traveller community, whose cultural roots are in the town of Rathkeale to the south of Limerick in Ireland.

Whether or not court action fails, the residents are expected to put up a bigger fight than seen at Hovefields. "Our boys are ready for them whenever the bailiffs do come. We're not just going to get up and leave – there will be an awful fight and we do not want that to happen," says Mary Ann McCarthy, a 69-year-old grandmother who has lived at Dale Farm with her family for eight years [Guardian].

One of the members of the self-styled human rights protesters has condemned the action. "Loads of people on site are not in a fit state to travel, especially as this is being done so late in the season," George Nightingale told the media, "Elderly people and children are being thrown on the roadsides just as winter is approaching with nowhere to go." He said that the operation was clearly a practice for the eviction of the bigger traveller encampment a few kilometres down the road. "Dale Farm is next under threat and it's the same bailiff company involved - they see Hovefields as a dry run for that."

Further links: Indymedia / Enquirer / Morning Star / Dale Farm blog [Pictured: traveller Catherine McCann struggles with bailiffs]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To claim a site as "greenbelt" to discriminate against the travellers is slimy. It is even worse than throwing someone off their own land.
Thieving squatters get treated better.