1. ITV Report

Protest to mark Dale Farm eviction anniversary

A mechanical vehicle begins to demolish the scaffolding tower at the main entrance to the Dale Farm travellers site near Basildon, Essex. Photo: PA

Protesters have marked the first anniversary of the clearance of the traveller site in Dale Farm in Basildon in Essex.

Police were called to Westminster as protesters, angry at the eviction of the travellers' site a year ago, tried to storm a Government Department.

One hundred people turned up to demonstrate. Some tried to gain entry into the offices of the Department for Communities and Local Government building, to try and 'evict' the department's secretary Eric Pickles.

A year ago, after a 10-year battle, bailiffs moved in to evict dozens of families from the Dale Farm Travellers' site.

Residents clashed with police and the eviction made headlines across the world.

Twelve months later, Paul Brand has this special report.

Today protesters targeted central government for the role they played in supporting the eviction last year, after protesters assembled at Victoria Station at 1pm.

The Traveller Solidarity Network organised the protest. The group emerged from

the Dale Farm eviction resistance, where supporters from across the UK and Europe

joined Dale Farm residents to resist the eviction of 83 families.

The Dale Farm eviction was a historic moment. The scale and cost of the

eviction was unprecedented, as was the outpouring of support for the Dale Farm

community.

Supporters ranging from the United Nations, European Commission,

Amnesty International, church groups, anti-cuts groups, local residents and other

concerned individuals came together to fight against the eviction.

One year later, supporters are reaffirming the importance of Dale Farm as an example

of an injustice that concerns all of us. The Fight for Sites campaign aims to highlight

the severe lack of sites in the UK, leading to evictions like the one at Dale Farm a year

ago.

The Traveller Solidarity Network targeted the Department for Communities and Local Government because they say they are leading the attack on Traveller communities and overseeing legislation like the Localism Act.

They also contributed £1.2 million to the Dale Farm eviction, adding to funding from the Home Office and Basildon Council

At the Conservative Party Conference, Eric Pickles announced a proposal for unlimited

fines for travellers temporarily stopping without permission.

Dale Farm was initially bought and set up by families wanting to create homes for

themselves safe from the endless cycle of evictions, seeking a normal life and an

education for their children. On 19th October 2011, Basildon Borough Council carried

out a forced eviction of families at Dale Farm, Essex, supposedly to uphold

greenbelt planning laws.

The bailiffs dug huge trenches and banks across the site, rupturing sewage tanks in the

process and turning the close-knit community into an uninhabitable and contaminated

zone.

The Environmental Agency are currently testing soil samples for evidence of

asbestos, testament to the sites use as a scrap yard before the Dale Farm families

bought the land.

Since the eviction, the homeless families have been living on the roadside leading to

their former homes, without adequate access to electricity, sanitation or running water.

Basildon Council has recently pursued further legal action against the families in order

to push them out of the borough and they face another eviction in the coming months.

Earlier this year, the government made £60m available in funding for new and improved

sites for the next 15 years. Many councils, including those with the largest traveller

populations, simply are not applying for the funding, leaving £13 million unawarded.

As a result, this funding has translated into only 510 additional pitches, representing less

than a tenth of the identified need. As local anti-traveller campaigns spring up against

plans for new sites, it is likely that many of these will not receive planning permission,

and the funding will have to be returned.

More on this story

  • Dale Farm a year on

    Paul Brand returns to Dale Farm a year after the eviction, to talk to travellers, locals, Basildon Council leader and the site's owner.