Travellers Fight for Homes

Travellers Tell Officials; “We’ll Fight For Our Homes”

The first-ever talks with local government officials to take place at Dale Farm, the 85-family community threatened with destruction by Basildon district council, appears have produced a positive outcome. Residents’ spokesman Richard Sheridan has welcomed a proposal from Philip Hamberger, assistant to chief executive Bala Mahedram, to set up an inter-community public meeting at Crays Hill later this autumn. “We’re obliged to promote good community relations,” newly-appointed diversity consultant Fola Kudehinbu, told the meeting held at the home of resident Mary Ann McCarthy. (13 Sept). Mrs McCarthy said all the residents wanted was to be left in peace to enjoy the homes they had created on the land they had purchased. They wanted nothing from the council except a piece of paper granting planning permission.

What no one wanted, she said, was for the council to send in bulldozers and crush everything that belonged to them, along with their hopes and dreams for a better future for their children and grandchildren. “I don’t want to see all the children shouting and screaming,” Mrs McCarthy told Mr Hamberger. “We’ll put up a fight if you send the bailiffs in here.”

In response Mr Hamberger said he personally could not alter the decision made by the council to spend £2 million on an eviction operation. For now it was up to the courts. But whoever was left at Dale Farm, whether 20% or 50% of the present population, his purpose was to improve relations.

“You can’t improve relations by evicting people,” interjected Wickford resident Anna Kobayashi. “We have a hundred Travellers coming to our church and that to my mind is real community relations.”

Mr Sheridan said he was determined to see 100% of the people remained. “We don’t want you to spend £2 million trying to get us off here – keep your money and leave us to live happily ever after.”

He suggested that the council could help promote a better image of Travellers simply by using different language. For start, the word encampment should be dropped and Dale Farm described instead as a village.

Dale Farm campaigner Grattan Puxon pointed out that on past evidence of the way bailiff company Constant & Co. operate, Basildon council would be breaking the law should direct action be ordered. In particular, he warned against the use of heavy machinery belonging to HE Services.

“Video evidence,” said Mr Puxon, “shows Constant terrorising children and wantonly burning property. These eviction operations contravene health and safety regulations.”

He reminded the council officials that at the recent eviction involving families at nearby Hovefields Avenue Constant and HE Services had acted in contempt of a high court injunction by sending a bulldozer crashing through fences on the property of Mrs Gilheaney, of Ash
View.

Before the meeting, residents removed a barrier of gas-canisters, which had hampered letter deliveries to Dale Farm. They have been replaced by a steel-gate and barbed-wire, limiting access along the private road to authorised vehicles only.

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If readers wish to protest the use of bulldozers here is a sample email

Dear Mr Hugh Edeleanu,

At a recent eviction (26 July) at Wickford, Essex,one of your bulldozers crushed the fencing on the property of Mrs Gilheaney, of Ash View, in an act of trespass that was in contempt of a High Court Injunction.

We ask you not to further damage your own image by hiring out your machinery and drivers to Constant & Co, the “Gypsy eviction specialists”.

In particular, we request that you take no part in the bulldozing of the 85 homes at Dale Farm, Crays Hills, Essex, as planned by Basildon district council. Human Rights Monitors will be video-filmingthis operation, if it takes place