This morning [4 July] some 90 families at Dale Farm, the UK's largest Traveller community, were hand-delivered a final notice of eviction, giving families until midnight on August 31 to abandon their homes, or face their entire community being bulldozed.
Basildon Borough Council has contracted Gypsy removal specialists Constant & Co to carry out a direct action operation, using heavy machinery and accompanied by riot police. It will be the biggest clearance of its kind involving the ploughing up of 54 separate plots created out of a former scrap-yard purchased by the Travellers ten years ago.
The central government and Basildon Council have set aside more than £18m to meet the costs of an eviction battle that could last three weeks.
"Dale Farm residents are willing to move, at no cost to Basildon, but need the council to identify suitable land," said Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council. Dale Farm Housing Association has submitted plans for two alternative caravan parks on land belonging to the Homes and Communities Agency. An earlier plan for a site at Pitsea was rejected by the council.
The eviction is taking place despite pleas from two UN bodies and an investigation by the Council of Europe. Lawyers for the Travellers will attempt to challenge the decision to evict through a judicial review application.
Hundreds of people have pledged to join residents in nonviolent resistance to the destruction of Dale Farm. A support-base, Camp Constant, is being set up on August 27h, before the final notice expires, and there will be activity days during the weekend until the notice expires.
"An entire community will be made homeless and we'll see children pulled from their schools and dumped out the roads," said supporter Natalie Fox.
An international team of legal observers are to monitor the conduct of bailiffs and police. For more information, as well as a press pack, visit http://dalefarm.worpress.com and copies of the eviction notice.
Grattan Puxon, Dale Farm Housing Association 01206 523528, 07757533380
Dale Farm Solidarity: 07891854430, 07583621312
Richard Sheridan, president of The Gypsy Council and resident of Dale Farm
Mary Ann McCarthy 07961854023, resident of Dale Farm