A lesson in community cohesion

With the spotlight on the imminent eviction of residents from Dale Farm, a large, illegal Gypsy and Traveller site in Essex, will councils face even greater community opposition to developing sites in the future?

Examples of good-practice sites may be less headline-grabbing, but there are perhaps lessons to be learned when it comes to building trust and co-operation within communities.

Experts on Gypsy and Traveller issues have praised Fenland Council in March, Cambridgeshire, for developing positive relations with the travelling community and fostering a general acceptance of Gyspies and Travellers by the settled community.

Unlike other councils in the East of England, Fenland has only a small number of sites without planning permission, which is key to avoiding community tensions like those at Dale Farm.

Marta Clayton went to Fenland to find out more.


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Dale Farm eviction looms

New warning about localism for Gypsies and Travellers

“Lives at risk” say Dale Farm campaigners

Localism: who’s really got the power?






Filed under Listen

4 responses to “A lesson in community cohesion

  1. Mick

    Your story needs some context and begs some questions.
    Fenland covers about 7 times more land than Basildon but has roughly the same number of travellers caravans.
    What would happen to community cohesion in Fenland if, overnight, their traveller numbers doubled (which is what happened in Basildon in 2002) let alone increased 7-fold ?
    Have you found evidence of community tension in Basildon generally,or Crays Hill specifically, before 2002 ?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Mick. I wasn’t making a direct comparison between Fenland and the situation in Basildon with Dale Farm. The over-arching theme of this project is localism and the impact it could have on site provision for Gyspies and Travellers. There’s a lot of talk about opposition to Gypsy and Traveller sites and fears that localism could lead to less sites being granted planning permission. And when cases like Dale Farm are getting a lot of exposure, it can be useful to step back from the heat and look at examples where small, well-prepared and managed sites can fit quite comfortably into an area. One can’t compare Dale Farm (a large, illegal site involved in a 10-year war of attrition with the local council – and which I’ve seen for myself) with the site I visited on Tuesday (a 12-pitch authorised site which is an integrated part of the community) but examples like those in Fenland are important in the localism debate. Not every site is like Dale Farm and not every council has a Dale Farm on its hands, but it is the Dale Farms of this world that will become synonymous with everything that is objectionable about Gypsy and Traveller sites to settled communities. The Fenland example hopefully gives just another perspective.

  3. Mick

    Dale Farm is exceptional for all the wrong reasons.
    It does distort things and as a result, acts against the long term interests of travellers so all the more reason that it has to be sorted out .

    There is another perspective, less than a mile from Dale Farm.
    The authorised traveller site in Courtaulds Road, Basildon, is owned by Essex County Council.
    Not as smart as the site in Fenland but it does not grab headlines either.

  4. Janie Percy-Smith

    The Fenland example illustrated in the broadcast is a great example of what can be achieved with dedicated resources, time and commitment. All of these, it seems to me, are necessary if bridges between communities are to be built effectively and mutual understanding developed. Unfortunately despite the coalition government’s supposed commitment to “localism” the reduction in resources available at the local level is likely to have a detrimental impact on precisely these kinds of schemes.

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