End of the road for Dale Farm?

Kevin Meagher reports on the apparent end of the Dale Farm saga and Basildon Council's pyrrhic victory over the travellers.

Yesterday the High Court rejected three separate appeals brought under the human rights act by the residents of the Dale Farm traveller site in Essex, protesting against their threatened eviction by Basildon Borough Council.

The travellers may seek to appeal against the ruling, but after a decade of to-ing and fro-ing this looks like the end of the road for their campaign in legal terms. Work to begin clearing the site is expected to begin early next week, although the 400 people illegally camped at Dale Farm have, as yet, nowhere else to go.

In his summing up, Mr Justice Ouseley rejected their pleas claiming it was “astonishing” that they had delayed activating legal proceedings against the threat of eviction until the last minute.

This is because the residents of Dale Farm hoped that a common sense solution would prevail. Unfortunately, the council’s panjandrums set their municipal face against a good old fashioned political compromise; one that should have recognised that the residents owned the land they are camped on, that the Dale Farm site adjoins an existing, legal, traveller site and the disputed plot, rather than a beatific corner of rural England, had, in fact, previously been used as an illegal scrap yard.

In this sorry tale of over-zealous officialdom, perspective has been lost. The travellers will eventually move off the site – probably to decamp somewhere else in the vicinity. The underlying issue about the acute shortage of legitimate facilities for traveller communities – in Essex and across the country – remains.

Basildon Borough Council and its outsourced spin machine have handled the whole episode with a bureaucratic bumptiousness that would not disgrace a Carry On film. Of course upholding planning law is important, but so, too, is the wellbeing of 400 people – a quarter of whom are children. Their needs, especially their welfare and schooling, are being completely neglected by a council more interested in pandering to some voters’ innate hostility towards travellers.

But yesterday’s result is a pyrrhic victory for Basildon council. Despite having an annual budget of just £27 million, the council is now set to blow up to £8 million of council taxpayers’ money (with a further £10 million to go on policing) in order to press ahead with its crusade to evict the travellers. But to what end?

To restore the site to its former glory as an illegal scrap yard it seems.

See also:

Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of TravellersKevin Meagher, September 2nd 2011

The ‘Dalits’ of Dale Farm have needs tooKevin Meagher, September 1st 2011

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12 Responses to “End of the road for Dale Farm?”

  1. Political Planet

    End of the road for Dale Farm?: Kevin Meagher reports on the apparent end of the Dale Farm saga and Basildon Cou… http://t.co/3xuNHAFr

  2. Gypsy Message Board

    End of the road for Dale Farm?: Kevin Meagher reports on the apparent end of the Dale Farm saga and Basildon Cou… http://t.co/3xuNHAFr

  3. Danny Gray

    Read @kevinmeagher on Basildon Council's pyrrhic victory over the Dale Farm travellers: http://t.co/8c80yVoM

  4. Dr. Matt Lodder

    End of the road for Dale Farm? "In this sorry tale of over-zealous officialdom, perspective has been lost." http://t.co/R7jyMQ84

  5. June Russell

    Read @kevinmeagher on Basildon Council's pyrrhic victory over the Dale Farm travellers: http://t.co/8c80yVoM

  6. Clare Fernyhough

    If local authorities stopped siphoning off the tens of millions put aside for travellers to establish permanent sites this would never had happened.
    Moreover, the 8 million pounds that they have already spent or are about to spend on this case could have been spent on sites for these people.

    What is absolutely disgusting about all of this is the cuts that Basildon council have made especially with regard to disability as quoted here from their local paper:

    ‘The council is looking at making cuts to four schemes to save £505,000 from its capital programme and reduce the amount of interest it pays on loans.

    Phil Turner, councillor responsible for resources, has confirmed a scheme which lends disabled people as much as £10,000 to make life at home easier is one of four areas likely to be targeted.

    Another is the £200,000-a-year budget for renovation and repair grants to people who own their own homes, but need help maintaining them.

    The £75,000 annual budget for disability access work on council buildings is also a prime target, as is £50,000 set aside for repairs to community centres and public halls.’

    Basildon council could have avoided these cuts if they had used the money they are allocated for travellers sites when this problem first became apparent, which would have meant that they could have used the millions of tax payers money to retain other vital services and jobs.

    I have a special interest in these matter, although to my shame, I only ever realised the significance once I realised that I would lose my own home due to welfare reform.

    When that happens, me and millions of others will be viewed as even lower on the social scale than travellers. Unlike travellers we do not have a caravan to at least pitch a night or two here and there. Unlike travellers, many of us do not have families that are able to take us in or take care of us if disabled. There are no hostel places for us since each hostel already turns away thousands of homeless people looking for shelter each year.

    We are told that we cannot live in homes that working people could not afford, but most of the social housing tenants across the country already live in homes that are very cheap to rent: there are no cheaper places for us to move to and private sector rents are even higher so we can’t move into those either.

    We cannot become travellers; many of us don’t own a car let alone a caravan. What are we to be classed as then, the ‘tenters’? We perhaps could just about afford camping equipment, but how many of the pensioners, vulnerable and disabled people would survive just one winter in the UK? Not many I think. And, it is of course illegal to set up a permanent tent site; offical tent sites are out of the question because they still cost money, money which most pensioners and benefit claimants will not have spare as their income reduces year on year due benefits uprating in line with CPI.

    Meantime, middle income earners who can afford the new higher ‘affordable’ rents for our homes will displace us; not only that, but many will buy our homes via the new improved ‘Right to Buy’ scheme.

    And, just like the travellers, the government has made little or no provision for where millions of us will move to.

  7. London IWW

    End of the road for #DaleFarm? http://t.co/tJASPw3f | #HumanRights

  8. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘This is because the residents of Dale Farm hoped that a common sense solution would prevail.’

    Thankfully, not before time, this common sense solution has prevailed: the law is finally being upheld.

    And people really should stop bandying around these exorbitant figures then proceeding to blame the council. The reason the bill stretches into the millions is because of obscene delays in the administration of justice.

    Those who pay council tax in Basildon will, I expect, harbour no ill feeling towards the council over this. Quite the reverse: these taxpayers will finally see their money being spent properly, in the pursuit of seeing the law upheld. Just because something is expensive, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t direct resources toward it. Health, education and defence cost eyewatering sums of money, while government finances are in a dire state. Nonetheless, personally, I wouldn’t want us to stop treating the sick, stop educating the young or put at risk our national security.

  9. david white

    #Dale #Farm End of the road for Dale Farm? | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/7ImFEDoC http://t.co/WEPm3bKP

  10. Leon Wolfson

    @2 – Well, one out of three isn’t bad, eh?

  11. Ed's Talking Balls

    Well, Leon, I can’t say I’m too impressed by the government’s NHS reforms: if they were so keen to change things so drastically, perhaps they might have been kind enough to let us all know via their manifestos…

    Not sure about national security, but it doesn’t look great from where I’m standing. Aircraft carrier fiascos, still too many Admirals and too few ships, and chaos at the MoD is still the norm, apparently.

    On education, however, I think they’re doing better. More academies, rolling put free schools, putting emphasis on core subjects and discipline in schools. Sounds pretty good to me.

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