Dale Farm contamination fresh headache for Basildon Council
The intricate legal struggles over pollution at Dale Farm are part of a ‘larger war prosecuted against Roma, Gypsies and Travellers across Europe’ writes Grattan Puxon
An attempt to reduce residence rights on Dale Farm in order to avoid the huge cost of removing contaminated waste appears to have been thwarted at a planning inquiry yesterday (11 Sept).
A barrister spent great efforts on behalf of Basildon Borough Council trying to elicit an admission that a small brick building, now in ruins, had never been a dwelling but merely a day room. The significance of the argument lies in whether the building was a place of residence, as this means there is a lower limit on levels of pollution.
A year ago next month, Basildon spent millions of pounds “clearing” Dale Farm. Council contracted workers dug massive trenches to prevent the 86 families who own the land from from returning to it. In the process, they exposed dangerous substances, including asbestos and hydrocarbons. The full extent of this contamination will be revealed in a report by the UK Environmental Agency next month.
By that time, Secretary of State Eric Pickles will also have received the report of yesterday’s inquiry. If he concludes that part of the cleared Dale Farm is still legally residential and dangerously polluted, Basildon will almost certainly be required to remove the offending waste. The bill for trucking out and disposing of some 150,000 tonnes of contaminated soil will run into further millions of pounds.
For the residents of Dale Farm, the immediate question is where they will be able to live in the coming months. Many, having lost their chalets in the eviction, have been living in caravans on the private access road. “We have no choice but to carry on the fight,” said Nora Sheridan, a resident at Dale Farm. “There’s nowhere we can go without being chased by the police.”
The day before the inquiry, Lord Avebury and MP Andy Slaughter paid a visit to Dale Farm and urged Basildon not to squander further millions of public money in attempting a second eviction.
“Families are living with no running water, no electricity and no showers or toilets,” Avebury commented.
Another planning inquiry has already refused to quash fresh enforcement orders that require all those on the roadside to quit by 29 September. Lawyers are considering an appeal to the high court.
Meanwhile, Basildon council must look at a plan submitted by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain to build an alternative mobile-home park in the area. But this could accommodate, if approved, only 15 plots.
On the anniversary of the UK’s biggest Traveller eviction - in which Taser-wielding riot police stormed defensive barricades – a demonstration is to be held outside Eric Pickles’ office organized by the Traveller Solidarity Network.
What may happen in coming weeks is still anybody’s guess. The struggle for Dale Farm residents has been going for more than a decade. Part of a large war prosecuted against millions of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers around Europe; this one looks set to continue.
Outside Basildon council yesterday, Dale Farm mothers and supporters displayed a poster calling on the EU to ban all evictions, a plea unlikely to be heeded in the present climate of anti-Roma racism and violence.
The 8 April Movement is urging Roma organizations to join together and carry out coordinated protests in every city in Europe on Roma Nation Day, 8 April, 2013.
Desperate for a cessation of the current camp burnings, expulsions and constant harassment operations, which are even causing long-sedentary communities to take to the road, many Roma NGOs are backing what promises to be a massive display of emerging national solidarity and purpose.