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Travellers Win Eviction Reprieve, Battle for Dale Farm Intensifies

Posted on the 20 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Travellers win eviction reprieve, battle for Dale Farm intensifies

Dale Farm settlement, Essex. Photo credit: The Advocacy Project

Residents of Dale Farm in Essex, one of Europe’s largest illegal travellers’ sites, have won a last-gasp court injunction delaying their planned eviction. The travellers have been granted an injunction until Friday preventing Basildon Council entering the Dale Farm site to clear the 51 unauthorised plots. But the war of words over Dale Farm is most certainly not on hold.

Resident Mary Slattery told the BBC: “We are delighted. Every day is a bonus. We’ve got one last chance and we’re not going to give up – this gives us so much hope.”

“It’s about the rule of law”, insisted Simon Heffer at The Daily Mail’s Right Minds comment hub. “The issues raised by the Dale Farm eviction aren’t complicated. Indeed, they are alarmingly simple. Is there, or is there not, equality under the law in this country?” Heffer reminded that the inhabitants of the farm own the land but do not have planning permission to build on it and that all Basildon Council is seeking to do is “to enforce the law, as it has a statutory duty to do.” Heffer rejected allegations that the enforcement “is in some measure racist. This is far-fetched … The people who live on Dale Farm are being targeted not because they are from any minority, but because they have broken the law.” Heffer insisted that, “the bedrock of our country and our way of life is a belief in the rule of law, and in its equal application. If it is not seen to be applied equally then confidence in it will erode: as will confidence in any politician who allows the rule of law to be debauched in this way.” With this in mind, Heffer urged the police to “vigorously support a council doing its legal duty: failure to do so will provoke others to wonder why they have to respect planning laws – and indeed, laws on things other than planning. This is what is really at stake at Dale Farm. We saw in last month’s riots that a significant number of people see no reason to live within the law. Letting Dale Farm carry on regardless would simply encourage more to take that view. And then, what price anarchy?”

Simon Heffer of The Daily Mail criticised the “usual crew of agitators, anarchists and professional troublemakers who have seized on Dale Farm as a further opportunity to attack the establishment and the rule of law.”

Eviction could prove fatal. Siobhan Courtney, reported from inside Dale Farm for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, found the community to be in a terrible state: Throughout my time at Dale Farm I hear story after story from the travellers on how they’re abused and treated in the country they live and were born in. Why is it so socially acceptable to refer to them as pikeys, tinkers, gypoes (to name only some of the more mild descriptions I’ve heard in Basildon today)?” Courtney insisted that eviction could have fatal consequences: “It is clearly evident that many of the travellers at Dale Farm are in poor health. Obesity, lung diseases, diabetes and collective depression are common themes here … Undeniably, some of the travellers here are too ill to be evicted.”

The politics of place. “Dale Farm’s travails – and the sharply polarised opinions they have provoked – has been a vivid reminder of how doggedly people defend their sense of belonging and commitment to place”, argued Madelaine Bunting at The Guardian’s Comment is Free. “In an age when we have become intoxicated by the technologies that shrink space – now we are able to communicate immediately with almost anyone anywhere in the world – it has become all too easy to belittle or overlook the geographical identities that motivate us.” Bunting argued that “the politics of place exposes power more sharply than any other issue. While Dale Farm residents struggle to make their case, the middle classes are adept at protecting the places they value, mounting hugely effective campaigns.”

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