23/10/2011 The Politics Show East


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Here in the East, we're at Dale Farm in Essex in the aftermath of


the evictions. The time ran out for the travellers this week. The


talking was over and ultimately, so, too, was the resistance. But hasn't


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1772 seconds


the time come to avoid this ever Hello. Welcome to the Politics Show


in the East. I'm Etholle George. I am in the ruins of Dale Farm.


Around me is the debris from the lives of 86 families who lived here


for a decade. This week, Basildon Council attempted to evict


travellers from the illegal camp. In the end, they left of their own


accord. On the day, officers moved in at dawn. 38 people were arrested.


One of them was targeted by a Taser. Five people were injured in the


clashes. They were between police and residents supporters. This is


the story. It started early in the morning.


Lines of police in riot gear break through the eastern fence.


Throughout the day, protesters were removed from roofs, taken from


trees and manhandled into cages. Some travellers ran from the


eviction clutching possessions in their arms. They promised us


bailiffs and police to ask us to leave police believe. I am


disgusted. Riot police to come to women and children. What do they


think we are? The protesters took up the fight and police battled


under a barrage of broken bricks. Paramedics took the injured away on


stretchers. We came under hostile action from the protesters. They


threw concrete at us and tried to hit us with implements. We managed


to make Our objective which was to get here around the scaffold.


the efforts turned into Clearing the iconic gallantry, the day


turned into a violent confrontation between two sides. I am clear that


if the truth was given to the wider world, they would see the criminal


law of this country has been broken. The expectation is on public bodies


to enforce the law. There battle may be over, but has this done


anything to further either cause? Or have they created irreparable


damage to the reputation of both sides. The next day, it took half-


an-hour to take down the gate. The travellers seem to have had enough


and wanted to leave with their heads held high. They walked out


with their supporters. We are more than happy to have the support.


Also they will be our personal friends for ever. The travel has


say they have nowhere to go. Illegal sides have been


proliferated since 1994, when the Conservatives scratched the law


that required councils to provide them. It took the Labour Party 11


years to restore it. Then it was changed. Will these scenes prove to


be a watershed that could see the provision of sites up to increase,


winning them the war in the longer run?


With me is Councillor Tony Ball, the leader of Basildon Council. He


oversaw the site clearance. The manner in which the clearance was


carried out came as a shock to many. The police had got information over


the few days preceding the operation that it would be


impossible for bailiffs to enter the site piece for lead to carry


out the decision of the courts. They decided to take the lead. The


scenes we saw proved that was the right decision. In the end, four


pitches stay. The road to the scrapyard it stays. It is not a


green site. The green belt has many purposes. It is to stop residential


development joining up. It stops urban sprawl. More about the future


for travellers? Will the council provide any more legal sites?


hope there is learning out of Dale Farm. I would not wish any


community, traveller or settled, to go through this again. Basildon is


the largest provider of authorised sites in the eastern region. We


will have to learn from this. provide other sites? I understand


that you are supposed to provide according to local need. There is


need. The 113 sites we have will grow. Those families will need to


be provided for. We will have to provide more legal sites as we go


through the framework process. But there is a difference between need


and demand. This was supposed to have planning permission. It is not


a blanket ban on travellers in the borough. Once again, I ask whether


you will welcome travellers here? We have a long history of living


side by side with travellers in Basildon. All planning applications


are considered on their merits. There is a challenge for both


communities to found appropriate land that is suitable. Why it has


this done to the reputation of Basildon? I do not want to see what


we saw on Wednesday morning. Thank you.


What is the future for the provision of travellers' sites. I


spoke to Richard Howitt, the Labour MEP who was against the forced


eviction at Dale Farm. I also spoke to John Barron -- John Baron, and


asked if he had represented the interests of his travellers'


constituents properly. It is right that Basildon Council clears the


site. Otherwise people would ask why there is one law for one group


of people and another for another. Those people who criticise Basildon


Council, such as Richard on this show, I would ask him. Why has he


been critical of Basildon Council, who have simply enforced the law.


Richard Howitt, it is right the travellers were moved on, despite


words of human rights. They got a fair hearing. It is right that if


they are found a legal site and round they were on an illegal site.


I have not said anything different. John Baron did not answer the


question. 50 children born in hospital locally, those children


who use the schools and worship in local churches, where the church


leaders with me try to mediate and find a different solution. There


are not many people in Basildon -- there are many people who had the


alternative view and thought and mediated solution was possible. If


this is not about discrimination by the council, why are they selling


off seven green spaces across the town, with many residents opposed


to it? They are prepared to sell off green spaces for bricks and


mortar houses, but not to find space for travellers. It was the


Conservatives who ended the obligation on councils to provide


legal pitches. The coalition scratch targets for new ones. What


evidence is there that councils will create more sites? We can be


clear what has happened here. There is a shortage of sites. But, in the


many years of a Labour government, their strategies did not have one


authorise site. Going forward, introducing incentives to get more


authorised sites created. You cannot get away from the fact that


we either believe in the law in this country, or not. You cannot


pick and choose. Let me answer that. Let's be clear. The law could have


been respected without the terrible and shocking things we saw this


week. Basildon Council could have saved �18 million of council tax


money they used on this forced eviction. The travellers could have


been involved in a voluntary resettlement to a different site,


including a site in Basildon. The government had said they would


allocate the land. We have been talking to the travellers for ten


years. After ten years there is a point when you have to stop the


talking and enforce the law. Have we witnessed a watershed moment


this week? Watershed in the sense we have the largest unauthorised


site in Europe. We clear to that site. We did not want to see the


violence. When you have protesters throwing bricks and rocks, using


iron bars in a threatening way. I believe Essex police, the bailiffs,


and council officials acted in a professional way. They did their


job. I want to ask about this turning point. Things could get


better from this time onwards? new coalition government, it


abolished financial help that the Labour government had four new


travellers' pitches. A parliamentary answer last month


showed the number of pictures had been going down under Labour


consistently. I hope this is a watershed. I do not want to see


what happened in Basildon repeated. I hope we will never see this


shambles again. John Baron, are travellers welcome in Basildon?


course they are welcome. Basildon District has over 110 authorised


sites, more than any other councils in the country. We have a proud


history of living in harmony with travellers and gypsies. This is not


about racial discrimination. This is about people who contravened


planning regulations. If we did not put that right, the other people


who contravened regulations would ask why we had let them off. It


would not be fair. What about the future? We need to accept there is


an issue of racial discrimination. It is not a popular thing to say.


Basildon has been treated differently in terms of the sell-


off of green space. We must recognise that travellers are an


ethnic group. They have their own culture. If they are prepared to


move eagerly, their rights must be respected. This is not about racial


discrimination. I have residence writing to me saying they have


accidentally contravened the planning regulations and I write


back telling them to obey the law. We are simply doing the same as


regards travellers. If anybody suggests it is discrimination, it


is irresponsible and risks inflaming the situation.


This is Margaret McCarthy. She lived at Dale Farm for ten years.


Tell us about the community here. It was wonderful when we moved here


ten years ago. We are such a close family. We thought this would be


our home. A chance to send the children to school and have our own


doctor, we did not have to rush to the emergency department. Everybody


was happy. A what about this past week? This last week has been like


a nightmare. Everybody's heart is broken. The children crying, where


are we going to live? The older people are worried. Nobody knows


where they will go to. Everybody is asking what they are going to do,


and there is no answer. How many families have moved on to the legal


side? Maybe 35 families. naysayer? They cannot stay. They


are there to find out what will happen next. Where will they go?


There is no plan. We were trying to get sites built. We tried so hard.


They are breaking up a big community that was so close. We


will now be on the side of the road, breaking the law. How long will it


take to get over what has happened over the past ten years? I will


never get over this. I am not sleeping. I keep thinking about...


I am sorry. Everybody is feeling the same way. I cannot understand


how Basildon could not take the opportunity when the government


gave them a piece of ground, that they could not build sites, instead


of ruining lives. There is no justice for us people. Travellers


have no rights. No matter what country. Nobody wants to have


travellers' sites built. I have to leave it there.


Thank you. How is the government going to address the issue of


travellers' site? Is their new thinking now the coalition scrapped


the planning framework. We asked the minister with responsibility


for travellers. We want to remove anomalies that


can give rise to this. For example, it is difficult if somebody sets up


and all -- unauthorised development, at the moment it is difficult to


enforce the law in these cases. The other thing I want to say it is we


want to protect and support travellers who play by the rules.


We say to councils the regional strategies go. There will be


stronger enforcement powers for those who break the law but that


you should as part of your assessment look sensibly at the


provision of authorised sites. We have made money available to assist


local authorities to build proper sites. We are giving travellers to


stay on authorise side's greater protections under the law. You have


faith in councils when they are left to make these decisions


themselves? You have faith they will do the right thing, because


travellers have certain rights to have places to live. They will not


say we are not having any in our area? You yes, like any part of


their local planning policy, they have to be based on evidence. And


public examination by a an inspector. You cannot be capricious


about it. I have spoken to councils in the east of England. Some


already have authorised sites, doing a really good job. Others


accept the reality that if they can have a sensible assessment of need,


it can reflect what is in their area, they will recognise that and


that is what we want to do, to work with them and help them to do that.


Somebody interested in what the government plans are for


travellers' sites is Gratton Puxon from the Gypsy Council, which


lobbies politicians for the rights of gypsy and traveller people. What


are your feelings about this week? This started as a small planning


issue. We needed to get retrospective planning on this. It


is not an unusual thing to happen but it escalated into a national


scandal. Internationally, people have seen the UK joined the


countries who are prepared to use are necessary and unjustified


actions to move the community along. I was shocked to see that. I have


been in the travellers Civil Rights Movement for 50 years and have


never seen anything like it. I am sure it is not the end of Dale Farm.


We have a public inquiry to see if we can get planning permission for


land just across the a road. Talking about the politics of this,


with the Conservatives at ending the requirement on councils to


provide pitches, did that make a difference? Were we have tried to


work with every government. This has gone against everything we work


along with, that is to have a duty on councils to provide. And at


least now to provide land where travellers would develop their own


communities, a caravan park. why you viewing the work of


successive governments? We have taken a big step backwards. The use


of Tasers and battens to move people away. We have gone back into


a bad era. We have gone back into terrible racism and intolerance.


The way forward possibly, if the government can get its mind around


it, is to say these are designated pieces of land that travellers can


buy with a guarantee of getting planning permission. Most


travellers do not want to go on council sites. We want sites that


are run by travellers for themselves.


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