The Environment Agency is expected shortly to take soil samples at Dale Farm, where last October 80 families were evicted under planning regulations by hundreds of police and bailiffs. If, as residents and campaigners expect, hydrocarbon and asbestos contamination is found, the £8 million already spent on the eviction is likely to rise . The news comes as Basildon Council last week began further legal proceedings against the evicted families who claim they have ‘nowhere else to go’. Those living on the private road leading up to their former homes in Crays Hill, Essex were served enforcement notices giving them until the end of August to leave .
The Council had previously committed to the removal of all polluted material from the site in the High Court and received funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government for the task as part of their multimillion pound clearance last October. Since then council contactors have bunded* the land, exposing thousands of tons of subsoil – a temporary measure, the council claims, to prevent families from returning to their properties.
Inspectors from the Environment Agency will now determine whether in doing so the council has created a serious health hazard in digging up the land, not only for families on the road but for adjacent homes, including over fifty authorized Dale Farm properties.
Parts of the Dale Farm estate have in the past been used by Basildon council for the storage of abandoned vehicles, as well as landfill. Over 6,000 cars were scrapped at the site before it was sold over a decade ago to families .
Local campaigners have made complaints to the Environment Agency that by breaking up extensive hard-standing, the council have themselves caused massive pollution. Grattan Puxon, longtime Dale Farm supporter and friend of the evicted families said “the council have no leg to stand on. They’ve evicted families from their homes on the principle that the land was greenbelt, and yet they’ve now spent millions polluting the land after the eviction. Meanwhile the families that used to live here are still homeless and have nowhere else to go and yet the council seem intent of driving them out of Basildon”.
* Bunding is the process by which flat land is turned into embankments and trenches. Developers regularly do this to make land uninhabitable.
For Comment: Grattan Puxon 07757533380