PRESS RELEASE from Dale Farm Solidarity campaign

Today, March 14, at 6:45 pm, residents from Dale Farm will issue a
statement outside the Basildon Council meeting (Towngate Theatre, St.
Martin's Square, Basildon SS14 1DL). There they will be joined by supporters who will also participate in a press briefing.

Basildon Council is set to vote today on whether to authorise £18 million pounds for the eviction of the Traveller community at Dale Farm. The Council are coming under fire for spending millions of pounds on a discriminatory eviction at a time when they are cutting public services. A special council meeting will commence at 7:30 pm to vote on the eviction.

Dale Farm is a former scrapyard that a group of Travellers bought and now call home. It is currently a community of around 1000 people, the
largest in Europe, and was featured in the tv hit "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding".

Additional information ahead of the vote (a press pack is also available at:

The Council will decide whether to take out a loan and set aside 8 million pounds for the eviction, nearly a third of the council's annual budget. This does not include a contingency fund of 10 million pounds in policing costs which might also have to come from the council's budget. Taxpayers have already spent £2.5 million on legal and other related costs, and now face the prospect of paying £18 million during a time when council services are being cut.

Even the Council's own report admits: "This will have a significant impact on the Council’s finances," and "will seriously constrain the Council’s ability to provide quality services to all residents of the Borough."

In the report, the external auditor warns that cost overuns "would seriously undermine and potentially put into jeopardy the Council’s
medium term financial sustainability and put continued service
provision at risk."

"Dale Farm residents are willing to move, at no cost to Basildon, but need the Council to identify suitable land," said Richard Sheridan,
chair of the Gypsy Council. However, thus far, the Council has failed
to authorise an alternative site. The Dale Farm Housing Association
has put in a planning application to develop a model alternative
mobile park on land belonging to the Homes and Communities Agency.

Gratton Puxton of the Dale Farm Housing Association said, "Councillors
have a clear choice: to back the proposal of Tory leader Tony Ball and go ahead with an eviction operation costing £18m - or to suspend direct action to allow alternative accommodation to be found for the

Various support groups, together with Dale Farm Solidarity are organising human rights monitors in case of eviction. Hundreds of people have pledged to form a human shield around Dale Farm if it's threatened with bulldozing.

The Dale Farm community has been in existence for several decades, includes over a hundred school children and is closely linked to Wickford Catholic Church. The Catholic, Anglican and Wickford Life Church all oppose the eviction plan, as do Basildon Labour and Liberal

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the United
Nations (UN) have both raised concerns about the Council’s position and consider that direct action should not be taken until suitable
alternative accommodation for those affected by the operation to move
to, in the form of pitches, is available.

"The planned eviction is not about protecting the green belt," said Natalie Fox, of Dale Farm Solidarity. "Dale Farm was a former scrapyard when Dale Farm Travellers bought it". Ironically, the eviction costs are being blamed as one of the reasons Basildon Council is controversially selling off playing fields in the green belt, and allowing developers to build on them to increase their value.

"The planned eviction is not about equal treatment under the law - on
the contrary, 90% of Traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall," said Ms. Fox.

The skyrocketing cost of the eviction is coming at a time when as many
as 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the borough cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3million short. Basildon
is also cutting £505,000 to disabled services.

Dale Farm residents will speak at 6:45 pm in front of Towngate
Theatre, St. Martin's Square, Basildon SS14 1DL. The council meeting
will take place at 7:30 pm


On behalf of Dale Farm:
Mr Richard Sheridan, president of The Gypsy Council (07747417711)
Mary Ann McCarthy (07961854023).

On behalf of Dale Farm Housing Association:
Grattan Puxton (07888699256)

Dale Farm Solidarity: Yoshka Pundrik (07583761462)

Notes to editors

[1] A copy of the report to council can be found at

[2] 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected
compared to 20% overall -- Commission for Racial Equality, Common
Ground (2006).