As we were driving out of Dale Farm the other day, my five year-old son said to me, “Mummy, if you tell the judge that it is the Travellers’ culture to live together in caravans, maybe he will let them stay there.” After thinking a bit more about it, he told me, “It won’t be enough for you to just say that it’s not fair. You are going to have to tell the judge a lot more than that.”
Here we are again. Tomorrow we are facing yet another crucial ruling; the Dale Farm residents’ fate is in the hands of yet another judge.
The residents have, in some respects, already won. Three weeks ago, bailiffs, who had set up an intimidating compound in a field near their homes where ponies used to roam, approached the barricaded gate and were set to commence a complete site clearance. Now, an injunction and three judicial reviews later, Basildon Council has been forced to admit it was going to over-enforce and has now conceded hard standing, fences, gates, walls and several yards and buildings. The site will never be the greenbelt Basildon promised, the costs are spiralling out of control and there are calls from all sides for someone (namely, Tony Ball) to be held accountable for what can only be described as a botched eviction. But what does any of this mean for the Dale Farm residents if, in the end, they can still not remain in their homes and there is still no obligation on Basildon Council to help them find somewhere culturally-suitable to live?
The ruling tomorrow on the three judicial reviews is critical. If the Travellers lose, the majority of the families will still be evicted with nowhere to go.
So have we done enough? Have we convinced this judge that the impact of an eviction on education and health is unnecessary and disproportionate? Have we convinced him that no peaceful, viable alternative solution has been offered or sought by Basildon Council? Have we convinced him that this eviction is not a long-term solution for anyone and that further marginalizing this community will exacerbate the problem? Have we convinced him that there is a long-term solution; alternative sites must be found and planning applications taken seriously?
My son is right. It won’t be enough to argue that this isn’t fair. Let’s hope we’ve done enough.
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Oct 11th, 2011