Success For Traveler Advocacy in UK As Eviction Threat Lifts at Dale Farm
July 9, 2007, Dale Farm (UK): Irish Travelers in the UK have achieved a
significant breakthrough in their long-running campaign to remain in their
homes following an unexpected decision by the Basildon Council not to proceed
with the forcible eviction of 14 Traveler families from the controversial Dale
Farm site in southeast England.
The decision was announced last week, two days before a July 6 deadline
ordering the families to leave. It is seen as a testament to the determined
advocacy of the Travelers.
The Council's ruling also lowered tension at Dale Farm, where the Travelers had
made preparations to resist any forcible removals. Melissa McCarthy, an 18
year-old Traveler who lost her parents two years ago, was elated to learn that
she would not, after all, face the bulldozers. "I was so scared they were going
to come in a few days. I was crying and depressed. This gives us more hope,"
Dale farm has come to symbolize the tension in England between local
governments and Gypsies and Travelers who seek to retain their mobile
life-style while building strong communities.
The Dale Farm Travelers paid the equivalent of up to $14,000 for each plot of
land and invested thousands more on water, electricity and other services at
The face-off began in June 2005, when the Basildon Council voted to evict 86
Traveler families who had been denied housing permits. This was put on hold
three months later, when all but 14 of the families were granted the right to a
judicial review by the British High Court.
But the Council persisted, and on June 5 this year it voted to evict the
remaining 14 families if they did not leave by July 6. This sent lawyers for
the Travelers scrambling to bring the 14 families under the Court's protection.
Last week, the Council dropped its eviction order even before the Court issued
a ruling, prompting speculation that it has decided to conserve resources for
when the Court finally rules on its review, most likely next spring. The
eviction of the 14 families would have cost more than $400,000.
In spite of their relief, the Travelers understand that the underlying dispute
remains unresolved. The Council has denied them housing permits because Dale
Farm is on so-called Green Belt land, which is environmentally protected, and
this position has been backed by the British government. But the Travelers and
their lawyers respond that this policy is discriminatory, because most
applications from non-Travelers to build in the Belt are approved.
At least last week's decision should free advocates for the Travelers to focus
on a longer-term solution. Zach Scott, a 2007 Peace Fellow of The Advocacy
Project (AP), who is volunteering at Dale Farm this summer, said that Travelers
will now press the Council to find alternative land for all 86 families who
will be made homeless if the High Court rules against them next spring.
Mr Scott himself collected affidavits from the 14 families during his first
week at Dale Farm, for use in the Court submission. Following last week's
decision by the Council, he helped to dismantle 60 gas cylinders that had been
piled in front of the Dale Farm site by Travelers. Mr Scott will spend the rest
of his summer fellowship helping the Travelers to use computers and develop
Mr Scott faced criticism in the local Basildon press after he expressed
sympathy for the Travelers. In a recent blog, he wrote about the prejudice of
local people toward the Travelers and their use of derogatory terms like
"Pikey" to describe Travelers.
* To read more information about Dale Farm and the Travelers, visit:
* For Zach Scott's blogs, visit: http://advocacynet.org/blogs/index.php?blog ‚