“Well, what did you think? Any good? Think this fellow is going to be able to do anything for us?”
After loosening my tie, heaving a long sigh and sitting down next to Richard inside his caravan, I collected my thoughts about the meeting I had just attended before saying anything.
Read a recent story about me in a local British newspaper. Photo Credit: Echo
I had just returned to Dale Farm from a meeting with the East of England Regional Assembly’s planning manager to discuss the organization’s efforts at identifying the total number of sites that Essex County needed to construct to accommodate its existing Traveler population.
Initially, I had viewed the meeting as significant demonstration of the British Government’s determination to adequately asses the living needs of Travelers. I became even more enthused after the planning manager told me that the initial estimate the Assembly had come up with for Travelers sites in the county was 1220 pitches, including 157 in Basildon District.
My emotional bubble soon burst, however, when the planning manager informed me that it would not be until mid-2009 that the Assembly’s findings would be presented for approval to the Government.
Unfortunately, by mid-2009, Dale Farm may no longer exist.
Even more discouraging was when the planning manager informed me that the Assembly had little to no power it could wield in order to persuade local councils to grant temporary planning permission for Traveler sites before its findings were approved by the government.
When the meeting had finished, I left wondering why I had even come at all. Not only is the Assembly’s timeline for the completion and implementation of its Travelers’ housing needs assessment too long, but it offers no intermediary mechanism that can be implemented to stop forceful evictions which may occur before legislation on the number of Traveler pitches is established by the British government.
The most frustrating aspect of the meeting, and that of the saga that has been built up around Dale Farm, is that the British government, either at the local, regional or national level, has failed once again to either empower or create institutions that can effectively intervene to curb the inordinate amount of power that local councils wield in issuing evictions of Traveler sites.
While surveys enacted by bureaucrats are a positive sign and demonstrate that the British government is taking a serious look at Travelers, they fall maddeningly short of issuing any of the requisite powers needed to stop forceful evictions that may occur on Traveler sites before mid-2009.
As long as surveys are issued that lack the political clout necessary to grant temporary cessations in eviction proceedings, local councils will continue to move unabashedly toward removing Traveler sites from their districts.
Thus, Traveler communities are left in the inauspicious position where they started: alone and forced to band together and rely upon one another for collective security.
Looking up to see Richard staring me patiently while he awaiting my response to his question, I could only give him a brief description of what I thought about the meeting.
“Richard, it looks like it is going to be business as usual.”
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted Jul 23rd, 2007