Dale Farm Eviction Crisis Reaches the British High Court

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at runbox.com
Sat Feb 16 00:10:16 GMT 2008



News Bulletin 129

February 14, 2008




Dale Farm Eviction Crisis Reaches the British High Court


London, February 14, 2008: The British High Court is considering an appeal by 86

Traveller families at the Dale Farm site amidst growing concern that their mass

eviction would create a major medical emergency in southeast England.


The hearing started on Monday before Justice Collins, a senior judge on the Court,

and was expected to end on Friday. It is the most significant development yet in the

long-running Dale Farm controversy, which is testing Britain’s commitment to the

protection of vulnerable minorities.


The crisis began in June 2005, when the Basildon County Council ordered the 86

families evicted from their homes at Dale Farm because they have been denied

planning permission. Dale Farm is in the Green Belt, which is protected from



Last week, the Dale Farm Housing Association, which represents the Travellers,

interviewed 17 families that face eviction and found an 86-year-old woman in a

wheelchair; her 76-year-old brother, who has been deaf since birth; a 67-year-old

cancer patient; a young mother who is pregnant with twins; and two children with

serious hearing disabilities.


"The medical condition of the Dale Farm population – particularly elderly, single

mothers and children – is precarious. Eviction would create a medical crisis," says

the Association report.


The report was compiled with help from James Dasinger, a Peace Fellow from The

Advocacy Project (AP) who is volunteering with the Association. It has been given to

Keith Lomax, the lawyer who is coordinating the Travellers' legal defense team.


The poor health of the Dale Farm community is central to the Travellers' case,

because under Britain's Human Rights Act the Basildon Council must show that the

impact of eviction on the Travellers is outweighed by the need to protect the Green

Belt and respect the integrity of local planning.


But the Association's survey suggests that the risk to the Travellers' health from

eviction would far outweigh the impact of letting them stay. Once on the road, they

would be unable to find regular treatment for chronic ailments. The education of

their children, who attend the local primary school, would also be interrupted.


The Basildon Council has refused to assess the impact of eviction on race relations,

as required by law, or find an alternative site for Travellers. In December, the

Council was told to find 81 new Traveller housing plots by its own governing body,

or Regional Assembly.


Justice Collins said on Monday that he expected to rule on the appeal by Easter.

While he gave no hint of the likely verdict, he described the Council’s position as

"unhelpful" on several occasions and said he would call for a "rethink" of forced



Nonetheless, few are ready to predict the outcome of the High Court hearing. Two

government ministers and several planning inspectors have ruled against the

Travellers since 2005.


About forty Travellers hired a bus from Dale Farm and held a peaceful demonstration

at the Court on Monday, before attending the hearing in the austere 126 year-old

courthouse. Several said that reaching the High Court is a major achievement for

their advocacy and expressed confidence in British justice. "Somebody out there must

have a heart," said Mary-Anne McCarthy, a 68-year-old widow.


Zach Scott, from Georgetown University, served as the first AP Peace Fellow at Dale

Farm last summer. AP hopes that Mr Dasinger, his successor, will help the Travellers

reach out to the mainstream human rights movement and develop an IT project for

young Travellers.


Last week, the Travellers received a strong endorsement from the Gypsy Council, an

influential UK-based advocacy group that plans to lobby all members of the Basildon

Council against eviction.


* AP has posted interviews and video footage of Dale Farm and the demonstration

outside the High Court.

* Read a timeline of the Dale Farm controversy.




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