Dale Farm 61


The evictions at Dale Farm are wrong. Eviction – forcibly removing someone from their home – is always a serious evil in itself. It is resorted to far too easily in this country, and is in pretty well every circumstance a far greater evil than the problem it seeks to resolve. That seems to be the case here.

The media has been scarily propaganda laden. We are told that this is green belt land, which will always provoke a strong and justified countryside protection reflex in the middle class. But in truth this was not a site of green fields, but a scrapyard. I very much doubt it will be returned to green fields now. The government meantime has been telling us for months we have to give up green belt so that homes can be built on it. Homes, of course, for nice middle class people. Not these homes.

The media have gone out of their way to promote every old prejudice against travellers – I have seen interviews alleging illegal tipping, dirt, and squalor. I doubt there is a great deal of truth behind these cliches in this case, but if there is some truth, the remedy is not eviction. The media is shrill also that these travellers are members of an extended Irish family, members of which own some property in Ireland. Why that is taken as removing their claim to humane treatment in Essex is something I fail to follow.

The biggest mystery to me is why the travellers wish to live next to such very unpleasant people in Basildon.

A society should not be judged by how it treats those who conform neatly to its regulations and social norms. It should be judged by how it treats minorities who do not so conform. It is a test we are failing.


61 thoughts on “Dale Farm

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  • ingo

    A few facts about Dale Farm. As Craig rightly points out, it once was a scrap yard and half of it is built on legally. The other half is also owned by travellers ( a loose term, many are Irish Gypsies who also have family/a home or business in Ireland.)

    I agree that the councils 18 million costs tag is wasted, because the owners of the land have the right to come back and tend their land, just not live on it. Chances are that this green belt scrapyard will be restored to its former state, with the same traffic and more to come. The council has had an offer from them to move out peacefully if the council would buy the site for a third of the money it costs to evict, some 6 million. Was this an offer to be accepted or rejected?

    There are children that have lived their all of their young lives, have been schooled there and have their friends there. There are elderly women reliant on medical help and in need of a respirator, in one case.

    Dale farm has happened because not a single council in the east of England has saw fit to act up and implement the now 10 year old policy of providing transit sites. This despite being littered with abandoned airfields in abundance, all with some hard standing, water and drainage. Years back I suggested, repeatedly, to adopt a chain of these and open them up as transit sites, not a single council complied.

    It is the councillors of East Anglia that have failed the travellers in Dale farm and elsewhere, their reluctance and political racialism has lead to this expensive eviction.

    Now picture this, a parochail parish council meeting last week in amsall village in Norfolk. The sitting distict councillor is giving her report of her work she is responsible for, some 2000 households tops. After 2 minutes into her report, she said ‘you all would have heard about Dale Farm, we had some meetings discussing the outfall with councillors and police, we are assisting the Essex Authorities, mainly to ensure that they are not coming here. As you will know blah blah, we have had some trouble at our established [email protected] ( not transit, but permanent).

    The parish councillors duely noted her rant and as I have heard, it was not minuted by the chair, as this issue was used to whip up fear, inappropriately, in a small local council in Norfolk and rightly so.

    This Condem agenda of depriving people of houses, whipping up people into fear of those who live different, their worst island mentality, is their impression of moral rectitude, lording it over any human rights concerns and it stinks.

    I repeat, How long will Nick Clegg be able to stand the stink before he de fenestrates this coalition?

  • Neil

    Well said, Craig and Ingo. The State has no right to evict anyone, against their will, from their own land and property.

  • John Edwards

    The solution is to provide legal sites for travellers. As this particular case has been going on for ten years Basildon council can hardly be accused of being hasty to evict them. Green belts prevent urban sprawl and once a Green Belt goes it can never be recreated.

  • Sue

    Perhaps you would feel differently if they lived next to you. I have experienced “travellers” living near me and it was far from pleasant. I was glad to see the back of them!

  • Bigsands

    “The biggest mystery to me is why the travellers wish to live next to such very unpleasant people in Basildon.” This is the real question!

  • david

    I beg to differ. Travellers are a major problem, they are generally above the law. Every time travellers move into the area where my factory is we get robbed. They took over £100,000 worth of stock last time. It nearly bankrupted the company. Im sure youll all scream coincidence, but I dont believe in that. Maybe tarring all with the same brush for the sake of a few, in which case they should sort their own house out. Rules are rules, even if you dont like them, you dont change rules by breaking them, you change rules by changing attitudes.

    The law is the law, even if you dont agree with it. Everyone has to live by it, or live some where else. The alternative is anarchy.

  • Neil

    Sue,

    Evicting a family from their home and land (which they legally own) is the worst thing you can do to a family short of murder. Are you seriously suggesting that committing that sort of evil is justified because you might find their presence “far from pleasant”?

  • Grant

    Craig you do not have a clue about these people, how many actual interactions have you had with them? I have had many, everyone was unpleasant. they can come across as incredibly polite and considerate when they want something from you or you are providing them with a service but most will happily pick you pocket both in reality and metaphorical while shaking your hand in friendship and leave a hand full of shit in your pocket to add insult.

  • Clark

    First they came for the students,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a student.
    .
    Then they came for the disabled,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t disabled.
    .
    Then they came for the travelers,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a traveler.
    .
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  • Steve

    David, Sue and Grant have valid points. While the eviction seems short sighted it’s really difficult to feel sorry for travellers in general. I also have witnessed numerous incidents where travellers were totally unwilling to stand up to any sort of decent moral code – some incidents were particularly unsavoury.

    The long and the short of it is that you have to expect at some point to reap some of what you sow. I’m speaking in general terms and have no idea of the behavioural history of the residents of Dale Farm.

  • craig Post author

    Thirty years ago it was common to hear people say exactly the same things about living next door to black people. Travellers are about the only people left where it is considered somehow OK to demonise an entire group.

  • Steve

    The difference is that 30 years ago those comments were borne out of ignorance. My comments (and others) are borne from experience.
    You are right though, it is wrong to generalise. I promise to hug the next one I see and let you know how I get on 🙂

  • mrjohn

    “Travellers are about the only people left where it is considered somehow OK to demonise an entire group.”

    The travelers identify themselves as a group with a particular lifestyle which sets them apart from the mainstream of society, obviously this will cause friction one way or another. However I think this is a conflation of an irrelevant issue, this problem is about the law as it applies to land usage.

    The travelers own the land but they only have planning permission (granted retrospectively) to build on part of it. If you have an issue you have an issue with the system of granting planning permission, not with the people applying for it, or granting it. The solution is to change the law to allow anyone to build a residence on any land they own, add any extension to their property, to paint their houses any colour they wish, to erect a 14 foot Pokemon statue in their garden etc etc. The law applies to all or none.

  • Clark

    Craig wrote: “Travellers are about the only people left where it is considered somehow OK to demonise an entire group.”
    .
    I don’t know, but I think that there are various communities grouped together under the term “travellers”. I know of some sites that are well-kept, and from which there seems to be no trouble.
    .
    Conversely, there is a field near here that was taken over by travellers some years ago. They were moved on within months, but in that time they created a terrible mess; the field was strewn with rubbish, and with hardcore and used tarmac.
    .
    Of course, good behaviour goes unnoticed, whereas bad behaviour draws attention.
    .
    Some travellers, it seems, have low regard for the settled people that live nearby. This, of course, cuts both ways. It is hard to exclusively blame the travellers for bad behaviour, because they have been persecuted and demonised for decades simply for being travellers, whether they behaved well or badly.
    .
    From what I’ve read, the Dale Farm people have been offered alternative accommodation, but they refused it because it would have split their community apart. Many areas of settled people have huge problems that stem from lack of community cohesion, so it is sad and wrong that a group of people that actually want to remain in a cohesive group are prevented from doing so, and are deliberately split up by the state.

  • edwin

    “Thirty years ago it was common to hear people say exactly the same things about living next door to black people. Travellers are about the only people left where it is considered somehow OK to demonise an entire group.”

    From YNET: ”

    Survey: Half of Israeli Jews oppose having Arab neighbors

    Survey finds 46% of Israeli Jews consider Arabs as worst neighbors, while quarter of population thinks haredi and gay neighbors the least desirable. ‘Media fuels radicalization,’ says Justice Minister Ne’eman”

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3992058,00.html

    I’d say that Muslims are being demonized in a rather frightening way in a number of western countries. Perhaps the question should be – what western countries are Muslims not being demonized in?

    As far as “thirty years ago” for black people – just ask the fine folks in Gretna Louisiana about what they think about African Americans.

    Not wanting to live next door to people who are different than you is still in high fashion.

  • Sue

    Neil.

    1) If I am forced on threat of bailiffs to pay rates and to adhere to planning laws, why shouldn’t everyone else?

    2) It would lovely indeed if we could all just build a house wherever we wanted without government interfering but that’s not going to happen. We have a responsibility to put aside a certain amount of land that should not be built upon.

    3) Where will it end? If these people are allowed to stay where they are, what’s to stop me buying an abandoned plot of land and opening a permanent caravan site on it?

    3) “Far from pleasant” was a polite term. If you want me to go into detail of how threatening their behaviour was, I will. Not to mention the fact that people’s houses were being broken into.

    4) They have alternatives. They have been offered a permanent base and many of them have land in Ireland. If I were evicted with my family, I would not be offered such reasonable alternatives.

    Don’t paint these people as angels, they’re not. We all have to live by certain rules to get along or there would be chaos. Someone will always unfairly take advantage of a system. Nobody is entitled to be exempt.

  • Louise Gallagher

    I think the biggest spur to the continuing animosity towards Travellers, is that they are so often deemed, rightly or wrongly, to live above the law. That may be a handy accusation to hide prejudice behind on occasion, but very often it’s a genuine feeling. It could simply be the sight of untaxed vans in a playing field – people think, ‘untaxed… bet it’s uninsured too… why should I have to fork out…’ etc etc. The same goes for fly-tipping.

    What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think it helps the overall situation to dismiss all negative attitudes/experiences regarding Travellers as stemming from simple bigotry – even if they’re held by those unpleasant people from Basildon.

  • mrjohn

    Been reading around this issue a bit. 34% of applications for planning permission are granted to travelers, (less than 10% first time, 34% after appeal). Much lower than the national average. One has to ask why. Is this evidence of prejudice, as the number suggests, or are their other factors?

    http://www.cngt.org.uk/key_issues.htm

    However this link above also shows that it is a very unhealthy lifestyle, high infant mortality, low life expectancy, one statistic jumps out at me.
    “65% of Gypsies and Travellers have asthma-like symptoms (cf. 6% in the settled community)”

  • Clark

    So this is all about planning law, is it?
    .
    “The government is trying to push through massive changes to the way the planning system works. Swathes of pristine countryside and vital green fields around our towns and cities could be put in jeopardy.
    .
    If these plans are rushed through they could put the interests of big developers ahead of the local people.”

    .
    http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-countryside
    .
    Large commercial developers have had undue influence over planning for years, from nuclear power stations to corrugated tinfoil industrial units, supermarkets, roads and mobile ‘phone masts.
    .
    Sue, what permanent base are you referring to? I hadn’t read of this.

  • Parky

    Basildon council hardly did themselves any favours in taking ten years to bring it to a head. You could be sure if the travellers had deeper pockets and could use the lagal system to their advantage, the council would have backed down because they couldn’t justify the expense. I have heard about large supermarkets adopting such legal tactics to get their superstores built and gaining retrospective planning permission when they had exceeded the original building plans. It seems these travellers don’t have these resources and at the end of the day are not welcome. It is a strange irony that the council who are evicting the residents also have a duty to find new homes for them.

  • Max

    “It is necessary to be plain about one thing. This is not, in any sense, a legitimate political protest. Nor is it a revolt of the deprived, homeless and starving. Few of those arrested are coming to the attention of the police for a first time. What is happening is that the burgeoning criminal underclass is realising that it is now large enough to defy society if it can concentrate its forces quickly in specific localities.

    This is not a race issue… It is a product of a contemptible…” rural “… sub-culture driven by a detestation of education and an avid materialism.

    They are not destroying the homes and livelihoods of politicians and bankers, but of ordinary decent people.

    There are root problems in society which have caused this, but the immediate cause is impunity. The criminally minded witnessed that they could loot what they wanted, while the police would merely stand and watch. As a result, more and more joined in and the situation has gone from bad to worse. One thing which has been under-reported is the amount of personal violence that has been used…”

  • Fudged

    Other than the shocking inhumanity, it’s the generalisations that get my goat.
    (paraphrasing)..
    ‘ Travellers are generally above the law’- want to add politicians, judges and policemen to that? I’ve read about a few I wouldn’t fancy living next door to.
    ‘ They can come across as considerate when they want something’-so can my five year old, and no doubt every one of his wee friends.But I love him dearly and have nothing against five year olds,’ generally’.
    I could go on….

  • mark m

    I am very tolerant and consider it a strong virtue. I can’t though muster up any tolerance of columnists who protect people who break the law! What an arse! As soon as you hear the term “Human Rights Activist” you know you are not going to have a reasonable debate, so no point in debating. On my way home tonight I am gonna drive through a built up area at 70. That is 40 above the speed limit. I know its breaking the law and if I get caught, I know I have no defense! It is called a law and sometimes we don’t like them and we accept paying the price of breaking them. Come on gypsies, travelers, or whatever, pay up!

  • Clark

    Mary, Pickles is odd. I feel an instinctive loathing, but that’s probably prejudice. He made himself very unpopular as the head (mayor?) of Bradford council in the ’80s. The council was split exactly 50/50 except for him, who thus held the casting vote – which he always cast in the Tory direction. Graffiti appeared around Bradford – “Eat Pickles”!
    .
    He has supported some odd things that I agree with, for instance, he has opposed the “super injunctions” of the family courts, and a campaign to clear pavements of redundant “roadside furniture” and to simplify signposting. My loathing probably subtends from his uncanny resemblance to The Penguin from Batman, and a general phobia I have about the politics of his constituency, Brentwood, related to “Bishop” Reid and the Peniel (penile?) Church, its advertisements for “Miracles” and its attempt to take over Brentwood council; plenty of links on Wikipedia:
    .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peniel_Pentecostal_Church
    .
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2000/dec/31/otherparties.uk
    .
    Mary, thanks for the info about Dale Farm’s delay of eviction.

  • Rainborough

    Maybe the best way to defend these people is for the UN to call in some airstrikes on Cameron’s compound in Downing Street.
    It worked for Benghazi, he told us.

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