Basildon Council given go ahead to evict Dale Farm
More than 60 Irish Traveller families living on unauthorised sites in Essex can now be removed by force after a ruling by the Court of Appeal this morning. The legal decision paves the way for the eviction of Britain’s biggest Travellers site and what’s been predicted as biggest eviction in British peacetime.
Three judges have reversed a High Court decision preventing Basildon District Council taking direct physical action against the community. The council can now enforce notices issued over the land in Billericay.
Lord Justice Pill said High Court Judge Mr Justice Collins was “in error” to find consideration had not been given to the individual families. He ruled that the council’s decision to clear the sites on Green Belt land was lawfully taken. Basildon council brought in enforcement notices to remove more than 1,000 people in May 2005 because there was no planning permission for their caravans, but legal challenges have kept the eviction at bay since then.
Up to 60 families now face being forcibly removed from their homes including more than 150 children. Reacting to news of the court’s decision, Dale Farm spokesman Grattan Puxon said: “We are not going to allow (our youngest) to be terrorised.
Gratton Puxon, Dale Farm spokesperson
“We don’t want bailiffs to come in, using force and heavy machinery around our children.” He insisted that the community would still fight for a “common sense solution”. He added that the residents would pitch at a site 50 yards south of the contested land, between Dale Farm and the A127, for the next 28 days. From there, Mr Puxon said, they would make further legal applications.
“Here is a group of people who have broken the rules by building in the Green Belt. Hopefully the law courts will now say you are wrong. Time to move on.” Local MP John Baron said before the decision. “They have no place to go and will end up on the side of the road.”
Romany Gypsies first settled at Dale Farm in the 1960s when a Labour run council granted planning permission for 40 families. Currently half of the plots on the site do not have planning permission. The Dale Farm case has been registered with the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions. The eviction will now be observed by a team of monitors.
“The Court of Appeal has now said the Council still has to decide what action to take and how, when, and against whom. The decisions are not over yet.” Said the residents’ solicitor Dr Keith Lomax, partner in the Leeds firm of solicitors Davies, Gore, Lomax.
“It is hoped that the Council now acts reasonably and thinks very carefully before sending in the bulldozers to clear the entire site. That would mean throwing off all the disabled, the elderly, the mentally ill, children and young babies with nowhere lawful they can go to.”
“Surely, if every family in a tower block were to be evicted in this way, there would be an outcry. Is it different when the people are Gypsies or Irish Travellers?
Lomax claimed that the long legal battle had also brought victory to the community. He said: “We have achieved protection for hundreds of people for the 3 ½ years. The sick and disabled residents have had continuity of health care. The children have had the opportunity of education. Community facilities have been developed. There has been stability.
“We have also achieved the need for the Council to make its decisions and take into account the reality of homelessness and what will have to be done to meet the needs of this huge number of families. It can’t just send in the bulldozers without further ado, which is what the Council was going to do back in 2005.”
The High Court judgment found that the Council had discriminated unlawfully against the travellers. That finding was not challenged in the appeal.
During the course of the Court case the East of England Regional Assembly has determined that Basildon Council needs to provide 81 additional plots for Gypsies and Travellers. The Planning Inspectorate as recently submitted to the Secretary of State that 71 pitches are needed. So far the Council has yet to provide a single additional plot.
“Now, Basildon Council, it is up to you.” said Lomax. “People need places to live. Whilst it looks forward to providing around 10,000 homes why can’t it get on and provide the tiny number of pitches needed for its Traveller residents?
“The same goes for all Councils across the country. Site provision is the answer, not endless evictions onto the open road. Stop passing the buck.”