Last night’s ‘extraordinary’ Basildon District Council meeting on the situation at Dale Farm, which was appropriately staged in the Towngate Theatre, was a tragedy from the outset. As they sat passively in the audience facing a stage dominated by 28 Conservative council members, it was immediately clear to the Travellers present at the meeting that their fate had already been decided. The Travellers felt like they had been the only ones left out of the in joke, as members of the local settled community laughed throughout Labour/Lib Dem arguments and cheered when they heard the news that the Travellers’ homes would be demolished. Tony Ball, Council Leader, and his Conservative colleagues voted unanimously to use up to £8 million of council funds (one-third of their entire budget) to move forward with the eviction.
1. We must protect our greenbelt land.
As several Conservative Councillors spoke passionately about protecting greenbelt land, I was left wondering whether or not they had ever visited Dale Farm. Surely anyone who had visited the site (a small, former scrapyard attached to an existing legal Traveller site) would realize that this is not about protecting greenbelt.
2. There should not be one law for one group and another for everyone else.
If this is true, why are 90% of planning applications made by Travellers in the UK refused by councils compared to 20% overall? The Travellers own the land at Dale Farm and have made numerous attempts to go through the normal planning process, but were refused each time.
3. We will uphold planning law at any cost.
As Councillor Davies (Lab) asked, why is Tony Ball personally obsessed with this issue to the point where he has promised to resign if he does not fulfil his promise to evict? Spending a third of the budget on this costly personal mission will obviously mean that services will have to be cut and jobs lost.
All measures have not yet been exhausted. The Travellers at Dale Farm are still engaging with the council and have continuously agreed to leave peacefully as soon as suitable, culturally-appropriate sites are identified. Why would the council want to spend £8 million to put them on the side of the road, which will only cause more problems for local residents, before these discussions have been concluded?
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Mar 15th, 2011