A judge has ruled that an eviction of Travellers at Dale Farm can go ahead. But Travellers’ representatives are applying to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling—and Travellers and their supporters are preparing to defend the site.
Judge Ouseley refused three applications for judicial reviews into the planned eviction in London’s high court yesterday, Wednesday.
Basildon council wants to evict around 400 Travellers from the site in Essex. The Travellers own the land, but most don’t have planning permission to live there.
Dale Farm is the biggest Traveller site in Britain. Residents have won enormous support here and around the world. The case is so high-profile that even the United Nations weighed in saying an eviction could breach Travellers’ human rights.
But Basildon council is prepared to spend some £22 million forcing Travellers to leave. Many have nowhere else to go.
Judge Edwards-Stuart ruled in a previous hearing that the council could not permanently remove walls, gates and fences. The council cannot remove all buildings and homes either.
Out of 54 plots at the site, buildings can remain on three. Residential use can continue at a further three. And the council can’t remove the hardstanding [rubble and concrete] at a further six.
The council said it wants to “restore” the land to greenbelt. The land was a scrapyard when Travellers bought it. And the council can’t fully clear the site.
Judge Ouseley ruled that this wasn’t a valid argument to stop an eviction. He said it did not “diminish the real benefits that compliance with criminal law will bring to the site”.
Mark Willers, representing the Travellers, had argued that an eviction at this point would be disproportionate. He said that Travellers had a reasonable chance of success of finding alternative sites in the near future.
Judge Ouseley rejected this, saying there were too many “uncertainties” and that it could create further delays.
The judge noted that many previous hearings had ruled against the Travellers. He said all had included “careful consideration of their circumstances”.
He said that an eviction would cause “considerable distress and disruption” and that there were “deficiencies” in Basildon council’s approach to identifying housing need.
But he ruled that the time had come “for steps to enforce the law to be taken”.
Judge Ouseley repeatedly stressed the importance he gave to “maintaining faith in the planning system and criminal law”. He said that Dale Farm Travellers were breaking the law and warned that the law could “fall into disrepute”.
He said the Travellers caused “harm to the general appearance of the area”. And he said that if Travellers ended up living on the roadside that would be “their decision”.
The judge said that criminal law must apply “equally” to Travellers and others.
More than 90 percent of initial applications for planning permission made by Travellers are rejected.
Travellers will find out if their request to appeal has been granted on Friday of this week. The council says it won’t begin an eviction until Monday of next week at the earliest.
Outside the court after the ruling, Travellers and their supporters drowned out Basildon Tory council leader Tony Ball by chanting, “We will not be moved!”
One supporter told Socialist Worker, “There are elderly people and vulnerable adults at Dale Farm—they’re people just like us.
“But those people just don’t seem to count.
“The council says it wants to protect greenbelt—but is selling off greenbelt land because it says it needs the money. When there’s a developer involved and money to be made it’s a different story.”
Travellers and their supporters are urging people to come to Dale Farm to defend the site.
Go to http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/ for details of how to get involved.