Familes form barricades as 10-year battle with council reaches a climax


Click to follow

By Paul Cahalan

The final bitter exchanges in the decade-long fight to clear the UK's largest traveller site will play out this morning, with bailiffs moving in on Dale Farm in Essex as human rights observers camp inside.

As 150 activists inside the six-acre site were preparing makeshift walls, barricades and barbed-wire obstacles, lawyers mounted a last challenge against the eviction, set to cost £18m.

But with travellers remaining defiant of a council eviction order, a flashpoint with bailiffs, who were preparing for today's 8am eviction in an adjacent field, appeared imminent.

"A number of caravans have been moved for the sake of children and older people but the adults are getting very militant," Grattan Puxon, an activist and spokesman for the travellers, said last night. "I'd say we have about 150 activists here now."

Separately, the High Court is today due to rule whether travellers should, on appeal, get a temporary injunction, blocking evictions.

Activists said the legal actions are unlikely to work. Basildon Council said that the evictions would begin as planned.

A council spokesman said bailiffs would use "reasonable force" The arguments behind the dispute at the former scrapyard – human rights and unauthorised planning permission on 51 plots at the centre of them – appeared lost last night.

A spokeswoman from the Dale Farm Solidarity Campaign said many residents had temporarily moved caravans on to the neighbouring legal site and human rights observers were present to witness events.

"The only travellers now left are the ones that have nowhere to go," she said, speaking from the site, which is now dubbed Camp Constant.