“Although we have compassion for the plight of the Travelers, this committee finds itself obligated to undertake eviction proceedings against the seven plots of land at Hovefields Drive, Wickford.”
After the decision and the grounds on which it had been decided were pronounced by the committee, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been transported eerily back in time.
“No,” I reminded myself calmly, “today is July the 2nd, not June 5th when you first spoke in front of the Development Control and Traffic Management Committee.” In spite of this reassurance, I still felt a little déjà vu.
I had come to the committee’s meeting to find out more about the Traveler site at Hovefield and to meet with members of the community. Fortunately, I accomplished both of these goals, befriending a few Travelers after the meeting and setting up a time to come to Hovefield the next day. Unfortunately, what I found once I arrived at Hovefield left me wondering if it wouldn’t have been better if I had never visited at all.
The Travelers living at Hovefield, which is located roughly five miles away from Dale Farm, find themselves faced with a strikingly similar set of circumstances as the one with which members of Dale Farm are currently confronted.
Like Dale Farm, the majority of the properties at Hovefield are covered by a court injunction that protects them until the High Court decides later this year whether or not to allow them to continue to reside on their land without planning permission. As is the case with Dale Farm as well, a small number of the properties at Hovefield, seven as compared to the eleven at Dale Farm, are facing imminent eviction proceedings. After the committee meeting last night, the Travelers at Hovefield who live on the seven properties have until July 17th to obtain a judicial review of the committee’s decision to evict.
In spite of the congruencies present between the Traveler sites, there remains one major difference. As I found out the following day during my visit, Hovefield, unlike Dale Farm, has already witnessed a forceful eviction.
The forceful eviction and subsequent restoration of the Greenbelt of five properties were undertaken last year at Hovefield. As is the case with Dale Farm, the committee deemed that the restoration of the Greenbelt was more important than the loss of livable property that the Travelers would incur.
Unable to obtain a judicial review of the committee’s decision to undertake eviction proceedings, residents living on the five properties at Hovefield were removed and had their land restored to Greenbelt. As I saw during my visit, however, the committee’s definition of “restoring” the Travelers’ land to Greenbelt differed dramatically from what I had anticipated.
Not only was there a mound composed of dirt and debris ten feet high surrounding the restored land, but little kids were playing near gutters which had formed since the restoration had been undertaken by the committee. Appalling, the only green I saw during my visit was on reeds growing out of the numerous cesspools which had formed among the various piles of trash.
While snapping photos of the land and talking to Travelers about what had happened, I couldn’t escape the thought of how what I was seeing served as a potentially ominous harbinger for the eleven properties at Dale Farm.
Although confident that our lawyers will succeed in issuing a judicial review of the committee’s decision to undertake eviction proceedings before the deadline on midnight of July 6th, I cant’ help but think about the painful images I viewed at Hovefield while I lie restlessly in my caravan each night.
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted Jul 2nd, 2007