Britain's gypsies and travellers are bracing themselves for "a state of war" as council chiefs, encouraged by the Coalition government, move to bulldoze the homes of hundreds of people who live on the largest traveller site in the country.
Councillors in Basildon, Essex, are meeting tonight to approve the £8m eviction plan for Dale Farm, a sprawling traveller site that is home to 96 families, and which has become the flashpoint of a row over the future of the country's 300,000 gypsies, who say they feel increasingly marginalised by public attitudes and the policies of the new government.
The inhabitants of Dale Farm have vowed to resist any attempt to evict them. One resident, named only as Nora, told the Travellers' Times website: "We've things up our sleeves. It will be like Belfast if they come in here. They haven't a clue what they're up against."
Last week the Prime Minister, David Cameron, encouraged the evictions by describing his "sense of unfairness that one law applied to everybody else and, on too many occasions, another law applies to travellers".
Since coming to power the Coalition has done away with a string of measures that were brought in to protect traveller communities from prejudice and encourage them to settle.
Travellers fear that the new Localism Bill, which will give local communities more say in the planning process, will return Britain to the mid-1990s when travellers felt persecuted by the Conservative government of the day, and up to 90 per cent of planning applications by travellers were rejected.