Dale Farm travellers in 'heritage site' bid


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The Independent Online

Residents of the UK's largest illegal travellers' site in Essex have applied to English Heritage to gain official protection status for the scaffolding gateway at the entrance to the site.

The gateway at Dale Farm near Basildon adorned with posters and banners, has become an "emblem of the struggle for travellers' rights", according to the applicants.

A spokesman for English Heritage confirmed it had received the application.

He added: "It is a highly unusual case without precedent. We are nonetheless legally obliged to consider it.

"Buildings under 30 years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality, in architectural and historic terms, and under threat. Our response will be released very shortly."

The structure has been in place at the former scrapyard for five years and acts as part of the defence against bailiffs, a Dale Farm Solidarity spokesman said.

Resident Kathleen McCarthy said: "We're here to fight for our rights to a normal family life, for our children to get an education and for us to have security for our homes.

"The tower is all that stands between ourselves and the bailiffs. As long as it remains standing, we know that there are people outside our community who still care about our rights."

The English Heritage website says that it designates the status to "protect and celebrate England's historic buildings, monuments, parks, gardens, battlefields and wreck sites, by highlighting their special interest in a national context".

The clearance of Dale Farm was due to begin last week but an injunction preventing bailiffs moving in is in place while legal appeals are heard at the High Court.

The planned clearance follows a decade-long row over 51 unauthorised pitches on the six-acre travellers' site.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: "There are already several beautiful, architecturally significant and historical buildings with listed status within the Basildon borough that we are proud of.

"If travellers or their supporters think that the scaffold barricade at Dale Farm can contribute to the rich heritage of the Basildon area then they are within their rights to apply to English Heritage to consider their application.

"Considering Dale Farm is in breach of planning regulations and with the ongoing health and safety concerns regarding the barricade, this is clearly another attempt to make a mockery of the planning process and laws of the land that apply to everyone."

A source close to Heritage Minister John Penrose said: "The listing process is designed to help protect the finest examples of our built heritage, not to be a thorn in the side of a democratic and civilised society.

"The truth is, hell will freeze over before the Dale Farm barricades meet such criteria."