Sunday, March 13, 2011
£18M BIG FAT GYPSY EVICTION
13th March 2011
BY GARETH DORRIAN
TRAVELLERS facing the boot from Britain’s biggest illegal campsite last night vowed a big fat gypsy war on the authorities poised to bulldoze their homes.
More than 400 gypsies face being made homeless in an eviction that could take around eight weeks and cost £18million.
Under-siege travellers in Dale Farm, Basildon, Essex, where part of TV hit Big Fat Gypsy Weddings was filmed,
have threatened to cling on to their scrap of land at all costs, using weapons if they have to.
Millions of Channel 4 viewers saw Dale Farm mum Margaret prepare daughter Mary-Ann, six, for her First Holy Communion in the show.
One Irish traveller who did not want to be named, said: “We don’t like making threats but we will do everything we can to stay here. We are prepared for a fight and won’t go easily. It won’t be pretty, I can tell you that.
“There are a lot of gas bottles hidden around the site, if you know what I mean.”
The site, at Crays Hill, has been home to Irish travellers since the 1970s. Around 600 live legally on bought land.
Those facing eviction are on an illegal extension of the site on an old scrapyard thrown up ten years ago.
Gypsy Council president Richard Sheridan, who lives on Dale Farm, said many families being evicted may move to nearby fields and car parks.
He said: “We are like the farmers in Zimbabwe who were cleared off their land. It’s an absolute disgrace. They need to give us more time to resettle elsewhere. It’s the same as ethnic cleansing.
“You’ve got children who go to local schools, as well as many dogs and horses that will have to be re-homed. All we want is more time.”
Basildon Council is behind a 28-day notice to be given to the illegal gypsies who are on green belt land. A meeting tomorrow will agree to serve the notice and reserve up to £8million for the clearance which would take place in four weeks.
It could cost Essex Police another £10million to keep control of things.
The council has asked the Home Office to pay for the eviction but the Government has refused.
Council leader Tony Ball said: “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 take action.
“However, even at this late stage I am still open to constructive conversations with the travellers.”
Len Gridley, 51, whose home borders Dale Farm, said: “The costs they are talking about now are unbelievable when you look at how other councils have dealt with it.
“Basildon Council should have got an injunction in place a long time ago.”
Many of the families have been offered housing elsewhere but have turned it down.
Mr Sheridan said: “Bricks and mortar is not traveller culture. We need a piece of land, not sub-standard and rundown council houses.”
Community leaders and campaigners have revealed worries about the mass clearance of chalets, caravans and mobile homes.
Bishop Thomas McMahon, who represents Catholics in the area, said: “Breaking up this long-standing community and its way of life will be a serious trauma for the children who have stability and support at Crays Hill Primary School.
“Alongside the humanitarian concerns, we have to ask if such an extremely expensive operation is a good use of public money.”
Police fear there could be violent clashes if anarchist protesters get involved in the eviction.
Gypsy spokesman Grattan Puxon, from Colchester, said: “We hoped the protests would be non-violent but they are coming in to break up a community and they might get a response they don’t want.
”‘We won’t go easily. It won’t be pretty, I can tell you that’
Posted by Morgan at 11:13 AM