Last Monday an eviction was approved in regards to 400 people illegally living on a Europe’s largest traveller camp. Basil don Council’s decision means that the families living at Dale Farm in Cray’s Hill in Essex will only have 28 days to leave the site. The cost of the eviction is thought to be around 18million, around a third of their annual budget, and the travellers are threatening violence if they are made to leave. However the neighbors in the area are hell bent in making them leave.
The community is divided in Cray’s Hill, one side you have the travellers who have lived on the green belt land for the last ten years, although they have lived there illegally. On the other side are Basil don Council who is determined to evict them with an army of police and bailiffs to throw them out if they will not go voluntarily. Villagers in the vicinity feel that the traveller eviction cannot come soon enough. Some say that they have suffered years of hell from the travellers which have included death threats, abuse and harassment.
One villager’s yard backs onto the camp and he said that he has suffered a few break-ins and has had rubbish thrown into his garden. He admits that he has had to turn his house into a fortress with CCTV and huge gates installed. He wishes that he could move as he feels like a prisoner in his own home but the house has now lunged in value. His house used to be worth around 450,000 but he would be lucky to get 200,000 for it today. He feels that no one would seriously buy the house when the camp is just over the back wall.
Nearby is the Belvedere Golf Club and Conference Centre and the owner admits that the travellers nearly ruined his business. The public bar had to be closed down even though it was making 5,000 a week due to behavior of the travellers. When the owner approached the travellers to discuss the problem he was punched and people thought that the bar was for travellers which was why he closed it. However the owner says that the blame lies with Basil don Council. When he applied for permission to erect a marquee temporarily for weddings in the grounds the council refused. But he feels that the council simply stood by whilst the travellers erected their eyesore of a camp. As a result it has now cost the council millions of pounds to evict the travellers as they allowed the situation to spiral out of control.
When the eviction takes place, bailiffs will try and get the travellers out whilst they have back up from the police. One traveller admits that someone might die as they are not going to allow the police to just walk into the camp and things could turn nasty. The travellers have even called upon travellers from all over Europe to help them stay.
Only half of the travellers at the site are being forced to leave as there are legal and illegal sides to the camp. The legal camp was set up with council approval by 40 families in the 1970’s. At the time they had new chalets and the site was kept immaculate with large iron gates at the entrance. They drive Mercedes and Land Rovers and the council even built them a 12,000 community center. It is the illegal camp which is causing all of the problems. In the fields around there have been rats spotted due to the rubbish that is thrown onto them. The illegal site entrance has a scaffolding tower surrounded by piles of tyres and a banner saying “We Won’t Go”. There are no Tarmac roads in the site and there are cess pits for the sewerage.
Some of the travellers are saying that if the bull dozers do come in then they will barricade themselves into their homes, even with their children inside. There are over 100 children at Dale Farm, including six month old triplets. Over 80 of the children go to the local school. Residents of the camp fear for the upheaval for the children rather than themselves.
Some of the villagers feel that the amount of money spent on the eviction is ridiculous as they have not experienced any trouble from the travellers. The camp cannot be seen from the road so as long as they do not make any trouble, some feel that they should be allowed to stay. Council leader Tony Ball is adamant that the eviction at the site will go ahead as they have tried in vain to find a peaceful solution, however after ten years of continued and illegal development of green belt land the council feel that they must now take action.