Case for appeal court as Basildon District Council seek £10m eviction funding

By Grattan Puxon

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Lawyers are preparing to apply for a hearing in the Court of Appeal following a negative ruling by Southend County Court in a test case mounted by Dale Farm residents over Basildon council’s refusal to provide land for those facing imminent eviction.

The case arose out of housing applications by John and Mary Flynn, together with John Sheridan and Barbara O’Brien. Like some 300 other residents, they registered as already homeless since none have a legal place to stay. All made it clear to the council that they did not want bricks-and-mortar housing, either in council houses or flats.

As Travellers, each applicant has expressed the need to have somewhere legally to place their trailer caravan, mobile -homes or chalet. Everyone says they want to remain at Dale Farm, where they own the land. But if they must move, it would preferably be to a location where the 90 families involved can continue their community life-style.

Improving their chances of reaching this goal is an offer by the Homes and Communities Agency to provide land in Basildon for one or more Traveller caravan parks. Dale Farm Housing Association has submitted an application to develope one such site itself on HCA land at Pound Lane, Laindon.

Surprisingly, Southend County Court refused to hear evidence about this offer and the BDC response to it.

Tragically John Flynn has now died and the case must go forward in his widow’s name. Much depends on it as the issue of appropriate provision of permanent accommodation to homeless Travellers by a local authority is not an issue that has yet been decided by the higher UK courts.

The application may also include a request for an injunction protecting Mary Flynn, John Sheridan and Barbara O’Brien from eviction while they await the Appeal Court outcome.

But the great majority of Dale Farm residents must remain in a precarious situation. They expect to hear soon whether Essex Police have been able to obtain up to £10m speciual funding from the Home Office to cover the huge expenses of the policing side of Basildon’s mass eviction operation.

Billericay MP John Baron has already requested a similar loan from Eric Pickles, the Communities minister, for the eviction and “restoration” of the five acres greenbelt zone land, most of which was previously a licensed scrap yard where Basildon council stored abandoned vehicles.

At a time when government departrments are facing 30% budget cuts, such large sums may not be easy to come by for purely negative undertakings such as the ethnic-cleansing of Travellers and Gypsies from south Essex.

The government has also to consider two requests from UN bodies to halt the Dale Farm clearance.

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