Evidence has emerged that Basildon Council desecrated the green belt at Dale Farm, laying down hardcore and concrete years before the site was bought by Travellers.
The evidence came to light today after the former owner of Dale Farm, scrapyard dealer Ray Bocking spoke to local journalists. He said,
“I was the owner of Dale Farm…[and] the council put down the hardcore. For years they hard cored it all….they parked all their cars on it…they put down tonnes of hard core…and now they want to dig up their own hard core! ..It’s ridiculous how they are spending other people’s money, £18 million pounds.” (1)
Mr Bocking gave the impression that the Council has engaged in a massive cover-up operation – putting into question not just their justification, but the entire legality of an eviction ostensibly aimed at restoring green belt. Mr Bocking said “Dale Farm was used to store cars before the Travellers bought it and I’d say the Travellers should be allowed to stay here.”
While part of the site was already a licensed scrap yard in the 1960s, the Council used the rest of Dale Farm to store towed away vehicles, and dump hard core, concreting over the greenbelt to make storing the cars easier. It appears the Council paid contractors to dump large quantities of hardcore over the course of some 30-40 years, and to lay concrete across the site to enable long-term storage of large numbers of council-towed lorries and cars.
The legality of the planned eviction rests heavily on the ‘green belt’ status of the land (2) and as consequence is liable to reassessment given the prior and substantial misuse of the land by the Council.
As a result the council activities at Dale Farm any restoration to its previous state will be to a brown field site, laying waste to the Councils assertion that they are ‘restoring the green belt’. It appears the Council paid contractors to dump large quantities of hardcore over the course of some 30-40 years, and to lay concrete across the site to enable long-term storage of large numbers of council-towed lorries and cars.
Supporters of Dale Farm and residents are actively investigating whether Basildon Council may be liable to a multi-million pound law suit, as a result of misuse of green belt land, misrepresentations of the status and quality of the land in communications to the general public and in court, and their sanctioning of the use of £18 million of public funds to ‘restore green belt’ which they themselves desecrated. To limit this possibility the hardstanding must be kept in place at Dale Farm if any eviction takes place.
The Travellers, who are bracing themselves for a brutal forced eviction are investigating suing the Basildon Council, as a result of the Councils misrepresentation of the land’s prior use and effective status.
Councillor Geoff Williams said this morning “This news comes as a complete surprise to me, and undermines the case that the council has been making for years. If these things are true then it would seem that the councils claim for rejuvenating the land is an untenable one. If the ground was laid to local authority standards following the uses spelled out by Mr Bocking, it would be beyond any sensible attempt to reclaim this land for pasture or agricultural use.”
Aerial photographs used is previous Dale Farm planning cases clearly show the land as a scrapyard and location for storing hundreds of cars and trucks (3).
(1) See This is Essex here.
(2) See Appeal Hearing 2009 here.
(3) Scrap yard photo: here.