– Hearing to be continued over the next few days
– Current injunction extended to Tuesday
Today was another intense day in court for Dale Farm residents. Upon entering the courts, one of the residents expressed how stressful the process was- how she could not sleep because of the uncertainty of whether she would have a home to go to at the end of the day.
At the court, the Judge heard evidence about whether the decision to evict Dale Farm was proportional and whether it should go ahead. This argument was based on the fact that the operation will not and cannot be a full-scale site clearance which would result in the site being restored to greenfield. Because Basildon Council botched the eviction notices in their overenthusiasm to chase Travellers out of Basildon, the operation will at most be a partial site clearance where people will be allowed to remain but fences, walls and some caravans will be able to stay. This means that the Court’s decision will essentially decide whether Basildon Council should spend £18 million on “restoring” Dale Farm to its original state- a scrapyard.
Another major focus of the court case was the fact that Basildon Council did not fulfil its responsibility to find suitable alternative sites prior to going ahead with eviction. Despite the Homes and Communities Agency offering free land (who turns free land down?!) to be developed in the Basildon area into a Traveller site, Tony Ball and Basildon Council pulled out of negotiations and decided to pursue eviction.
Today, Labour Leader Ed Miliband came out against the eviction of Dale Farm prior to finding alternative sites. This is a significant improvement over his previous unqualified support for the right of Basildon Council to evict, and although we reckon the eviction is just plain wrong, we’re glad Miliband has at least enough sense to say that alternative sites ought to be found.
Meanwhile, the anxiety felt by families at Dale Farm has been increased by Tony Ball’s refusal to commit to giving adequate advance warning in the case of an eviction. His lawyer said that if the court case had gone in favour of Basildon Council, bulldozers would have gone in right away- possibly even before news about the Court’s decision would have reached residents. Outside the court, Tony Ball refused to answer the question of whether he would give residents any warning before sending bulldozers in.
Arguments will continue in court tomorrow, and a ruling is not expected until Tuesday. The injunction remains in place until Tuesday under its current conditions.