Two thirds of the British public support Basildon Council’s plans to evict residents from the illegal portion of controversial travellers’ site Dale Farm in Essex, ahead of this Monday’s High Court decision on the matter. The council is attempting to clear 51 illegal plots from the site on which around 400 travellers currently live, but the High Court decision to overturn an injunction preventing the clearance is not expected until next week.
- Over two thirds (66%) of the British public feel the council is right to try and evict the travellers from the Dale Farm site
- 17% disagree and feel the council is wrong to do so (with 17% saying they don’t know)
- Older people are more likely to support the eviction, with 74% of those over 60 agreeing compared to 59% of those aged 18-24
- Conservative supporters are the most likely to support eviction, with 82% thinking the council is right compared to 66% of Liberal Democrat supporters
The controversial travellers’ camp in Essex
The results come in light of the on-going fight by the travellers to resist eviction, in a battle that dates back to 1996 when Dale Farm was sold to an Irish travelling family and quickly grew in size. The site started to gain notoriety following planning breaches, such as the building of permanent structures without planning permission and spreading illegally over land outside its allotted borders, and the still-growing community was reportedly becoming problematic by 2001.
In 2003, the council’s actions on the planning breaches were overturned, with the travellers given a two-year reprieve. By 2009, the travellers had staged a legal challenge in the High Court to fight any plans to evict them, and eventually succeeded in gaining an injunction to prevent the council moving in.
However, in recent months the council has stepped up its attempts to evict, saying that ‘the travellers have used the law to their advantage over the past decade’ but have now ‘exhausted the judicial process’, leaving the council no option but to clear the site, and remove the travellers ‘irrelevant of where they are from’. The residents have responded to the situation, stating, ‘We're reasonable people and we urge the council to find a way that we can continue to live in peace as a community.’ BBC News correspondent Mark Worthington has said that many of the travellers see eventual eviction as ‘inevitable’, but hope the High Court decision may help ‘limit its scale’.
The Prime Minister has supported the Conservative-backed council, stating that the site is ‘an illegal development and [that] these people should move away’.
A decision from the High Court is expected after the weekend.