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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.