Bill for evicting 90 Dale Farm traveller families could hit £18m

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Mar 8 01:29:04 GMT 2011

Bill for evicting just 90 traveller families from 
UK's biggest illegal site could hit £18m
By Daily Mail Reporter - 7th March 2011

The cost of evicting travellers from Europe’s 
largest illegal camp could spiral to £18million, councillors have revealed.
The occupants of Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, 
have threatened violence if bailiffs move in, 
pushing up the bill to remove them from £3.5million just 18 months ago.
Basildon Council has set aside £8million for the 
operation – almost a third of its annual budget – 
while Essex Police has a £10million ‘worst-case scenario’ fund.
Insiders fear moving 1,000 travellers from the 
former greenfield site could take two months 
after they said they were preparing for a lengthy battle.
The removal of the gypsies is expected to take 
around eight weeks, with the expenditure 
confirmed in a meeting due to take place next Monday.
If confirmed, the residents would be given 28 
days to leave the site, with the enforcement 
notice applying to 51 pitches, outbuildings, utility blocks, fencing and walls.
Despite the huge cost, Tony Ball, leader of the 
council is determined to press ahead if the 
families choose not leave by their own accord.
Mr Ball said: 'No one wants a forced clearance of 
this site and we have spent ten years asking the 
travellers to work with us to seek a peaceful resolution.
'However, it is important the law is applied 
equally and fairly to all people and if we do not 
take action in this case, we would have little 
moral right as a planning authority to take 
action against future unauthorised developments.
'That would set a very dangerous precedent.'
The huge bill could force town hall bosses in 
Basildon to axe more jobs and hike council tax 
and the town's Labour group has opposed the 
eviction on humanitarian and costs grounds even 
when the estimations were smaller.
Group leader Lynda Gordon said: 'Only a week ago 
we were told we were reckless for wanting to take 
£2million out of reserves to pay off the sports 
village to avoid selling off playing fields.
'Now the Conservatives are prepared to take this 
much out for an enforcement issue. It is very 
worrying how far they are prepared to go on this 
issue, but just how many jobs and services are going to go as a result?'
Legal wrangling over the issue first began a 
decade ago when the council became aware that 
families had started to used the land, which now houses more than 1,000 people.
But travellers - who have placed a large banner 
declaring 'We won't go' over the site's entrance 
- have declared they will use violence in a bid to protect their homes.
Mr Ball added: 'We have tried to work with the 
families concerned to find a peaceful resolution 
but, after ten years of continued and illegal 
development of the green belt, we must draw a 
line under the matter and take action.
'However, even at this late stage I am still open 
to constructive conversations with the travellers.'
Since the dispute began, council officers have 
offered private meetings to the affected families 
to discuss how the council could help them in their efforts to re-locate.
'This offer of help has remained on the table 
throughout the past ten years but sadly few 
families asked to meet with our officers.
'I think families at Dale Farm believed the 
courts would overturn the council's enforcement 
action, or that the council would simply back down.'
Following the confirmation of the notice, the 
council is required by law to meet any 
homelessness that arises from their operation and 
said it had been working with willing families.
Travellers considering leaving Dale Farm are 
understood to be looking at up to four sites, 
including other locations in Essex.
Dale Farm campaigner Grattan Puxon said 
travellers could then apply to a £60million Homes 
and Communities Agency fund to build caravan sites.
Travellers have been at Dale Farm since the 1970s 
when 40 families were granted planning permission to live there.

+44 (0)7786 952037
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"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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