Campaigners fighting against the removal of Gypsies and Travellers from an illegal site in Essex claim “lives are at risk”, if the eviction goes ahead.
Basildon Council is expected to serve 28-day notice on 51 pitches at Dale Farm within the next few days after funding of up to £9.5m has been agreed to police the operation.
Grattan Puxon, secretary of Dale Farm Residents Association, said residents and supporters were planning a lot of defence tactics to protect the site.
“We’ll stand in the way, they’ll have to drive over us with their bulldozers. Some people say they’ll put their limbs at risk.
“This is going to inevitably traumatise children and there are certainly old folk who won’t be able to survive out on the road, so lives are at risk,” he added.
Mr Puxon suggested that Basildon Council was “making no exceptions” for vulnerable people, in spite of being given a report with residents’ medical histories.
“There’s an old man who’s literally bed-ridden, another man of 80-years-old, a young woman who’s just had a miscarriage (and) a young mother with triplets. All that has been pushed aside,” he said.
Basildon Council “fully aware of its duties”
But Lorraine Browne, legal services manager for Basildon Council, said the council “has always been fully aware of its duties and responsibilities towards the families and individuals who would be the subject of direct action to secure compliance with planning enforcement notices.”
The council would “seek to minimise the impact of the eviction process (and) provide practical and sustained support for those families affected,” she added.
Essex Police Authority will cover the first £2.5m cost of policing the eviction, with the next £2.4m shared equally between the Home Office and Basildon Council. If more funds are needed, the Home Office will pay another £2.3m and the remainder will be split between Essex Police Authority and the Home Office.
“No individual or group is above the law”
Basildon & Billericay MP John Baron said:“This funding sends a clear message that no one individual or group is above the law. Once again, I urge the travellers at the illegal Dale Farm site to now move off peacefully, as no one wants to see the misery of a forced eviction.”
Mr Puxon said the residents had submitted planning applications for two alternative sites in the area and “that’s the avenue we want to go down.”
“But if they spring an eviction on us, we have to protect our homes and the right of our children to go to school (and) defend our farm by non-violent means,” he added.
Listen to an interview with Grattan Puxon, Dale Farm Residents Association