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Zero Evictions Campaign

Dale Farm, Crays Hill, Basildon, Essex, UK

Title of entry:
Dale Farm, Crays Hill, Basildon, Essex, UK
United Kingdom
Name of community or family threatened with eviction:
Irish Travellers
Estimated number of people affected (in figures):
Type of tenure:
informal housing, low income , Migrants , Adultos , Squatters , Children
Case history:
The eviction of some 90 Traveller families living at Dale Farm, Cray’s Hill, Essex, has been in the offing for a number of years. No alternative accommodation is being offered, a joint homeless application having been rejected.
Scale of responsibility:
Reasons given for eviction (official and unofficial) :
Over the last few years there have been many demonstrations and legal cases.
Main events in the eviction (date, year, time):
The Dale Farm Housing Association
The Gypsy Council Ltd
Authorities planning or carrying out the eviction:
Basidon Council
Agencies, NGOs or other organisations providing support to the community affected:
The Gypsy Council Thames Valley, Gypsy Roma Traveller Southern Network
Source of information (name, address and nature of involvement) :
Joseph G. Jones The Gypsy Council - Thames Valley, IAI, UN AGFE
Saga Ct, Unit 3 Sibleys Rise,
South Heath
Bucks, HP16 9QQ, UK
Relationship of community organisations involved with IAI:
IAI members
Gabriele Francescotto

The first group of Romanies and Travellers settled in Crays Hill, Essex in back in the l960s.
During the l970s planning permission was granted for a number of families. This was increased, while the Basildon District Council was under a Labour Party administration until by 1996 there were forty Gypsy-owned properties.
Meanwhile, in l994 the Criminal Justice Act had done away with the duty on local authorities to provide caravan parks (imposed in l968 by the Caravan Sites Act) and increased the powers of the police, under s62, to move-on and evict Travellers who attempted to camp on roadsides or carparks.

The then Conservative Government advised Gypsies to buy their own land, admitting at the same time that an estimated 50,000 were without a legal place to live.

Relatives of those settled at Oak Lane purchased an old scrapyard and other land adjacent, including the Dale Farm property. This was subdivided into 52 plots or yards to accommodate some 70 families. The number then grew due to evictions taking place in other parts of Essex, and in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, where Travellers lost land they had bought due to lack of planning consent.

The new Conservative administration in Basildon, together with Conservative MP John Baron now began a campaign to "Rid the district of Travellers", as the local Echo newspaper reported.

All planning applications for plots at Dale Farm were refused and three public inquiries held. Appeals to the Secretary of State by Travellers resulted in a two years temporary stay but Basildon in 2005 voted to spend up to five million euro on a direct action eviction under s127 of the Town and Country Planning Act, not only of Dale Farm but also of Traveller families at Hovefields Avenue, Wickford.

With some thousand men, women and children under threat in what was now a village, lawyers for the Travellers obtained a Judicial Review in the High Court and an Injunction preventing the eviction was issued by the High Court. The ruling caused difficulties for the Basildon Council, which has appealed to the Court of Appeal. The case is to be heard on 5 December.
As a way of currying favour with voters, politicians have used the residents of Dale Farm as a political football, and now the extreme rightwing BNP Party is competing with the Conservatives to see who can make the most negative comments about the community with an eye to gaining votes at the next election, from local people who are often ignorant of the disparate and catastrophic situation facing Dale Farm residents if evicted from the site.
Meanwhile, the Dale Farm families have integrated into the Catholic parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel and have erected the Saint Christopher Centre, which is both a community building and chapel. The Dale Farm Housing
Association was formed in 2005, and more recently the Dale Farm Chaveys Youth Club.

The Dale Farm Housing Association has submitted a lengthy complaint (26 pages and photographs) to Minister of Justice Jack Straw over the conduct of the private bailiff firm hired by Basildon to evict families at Hovefields, and
contracted to draw up an eviction plan for Dale Farm. This alleges that Constant have ignored health and safety regulations, carrying on operations with heavy machinery while children are present, failing to draw up adequate risk assessment reports, and failing to enclose demolition sites with fencing.

Constant has smashed caravans and mobile homes, and one one occasion ignored a High Court Injunction not to enter a Traveller-owned property. A copy of the report is available. The Ministry is considering new regulations including a complaints procedure against bailiffs.

Most recently the DFHA and the Gypsy Council have challenged Essex County Council over an alleged plan to take more than a hundred children into temporary care at Dale Farm as a means of pressuring Travellers to leave Basildon, and quite Essex altogether.