Cameron urged to delay Dale Farm's Monday evictions

 

MEMBERS OF the House of Commons and the House of Lords have appealed to the prime minister, David Cameron, and Basildon Borough Council to postpone Monday’s eviction of several hundred Irish Travellers from a campsite outside the Essex town.

In a letter sent last night, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers said a postponement would allow for “the brokerage of a solution which we believe is achievable”.

The evictions are due to begin at 8am, though eight of the 80 families believed to live on the illegal section of the Dale Farm site have already left in the last two days, taking their caravans and mobile homes with them.

Urging a last-minute reprieve, the chairman of the all-party group, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, said the crisis is “of national significance in Britain” and not just a local matter. A solution can be found that would restore the part of Dale Farm illegally developed on green-belt land, offer a temporary site elsewhere for those who have to move and offer time for the Travellers “to secure alternative and culturally appropriate accommodation”, he said.

“If it is successful, as we believe it would be, it would save public money, allow the illegally occupied portion of the site to be restored and be more humane to those Traveller families who are now on the cusp of eviction.” Such a compromise would protect up to £18 million of “scarce public funds” put aside by the Home Office, Essex Constabulary and Basildon council, who have already laid a temporary road across a field and erected fencing.

It would be “more beneficial” for the settled community who may “otherwise have their lives considerably disrupted if homeless Travellers are given little alternative than to set up unauthorised encampments and sites in the area”. It would also “be significantly more humane for the Dale Farm residents, especially those who are vulnerable and who are currently living in extreme anxiety, which is contributing to worsening health and other problems”, said Mr George.

The council is setting up a holding area where mobile homes will be kept, but all of the Travellers at Dale Farm must leave during the evacuation. A number of elderly and ailing Travellers living on the illegal section have been given permission, it is understood, by those who own plots in the mostly-unoccupied legal part, to occupy their sites temporarily.

In a letter to council chairman Cllr Tony Ball, the Westminster parliamentary group acknowledged he had worked tirelessly for “an effective and lasting solution” for years. However, a last-minute compromise is unlikely. Last night Mr Ball wrote to the Travellers, urging them not to resist the bailiffs when they arrive.