Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sick Travellers at Dale Farm offered legal pitches next to unauthorised site | UK news |

Sick Travellers at Dale Farm offered legal pitches next to unauthorised site

Owners of legal Traveller pitches make land temporarily available to families before planned eviction next week

Dale Farm
Dale Farm in Basildon, Essex. Bailiffs are due to begin evicting Travellers from the site next week. Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

Ill and vulnerable Travellers from Dale Farm will be allowed to move to legal pitches next to the Essex site in a surprise attempt to defuse next week's controversial eviction.

Owners of legal Traveller pitches next to the unauthorised site, on a former scrapyard close to Basildon, have given permission for Dale Farm residents to live temporarily on their land.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, Basildon council said it would not object to families moving on to the legal site.

"It would appear that your proposal has considerable prospects of success," Dawn French, the head of corporate services at the council, wrote to a resident who owns much of the legal site and offered to broker a peaceful solution to the eviction.

Basildon council signalled that it would not interfere with any agreement between residents of the legal site and Dale Farm residents.

There are 34 pitches on the legal site, on a field immediately adjacent to Dale Farm. One touring caravan and one mobile home is allowed on each pitch. The legal site could house the most vulnerable of the 86 families on Dale Farm, who will be made homeless when bailiffs arrive for the £18m eviction on Monday.

The authorities' acceptance of the Travellers' plan has come with Basildon council under increasing pressure from the UN and other human rights monitors and agencies.

Members of the UN habitat advisory group on forced evictions are visiting Dale Farm on Wednesday.

Prof Yves Cabannes, the chair of the mission and a planning specialist from University College London, told Radio 4's Today programme that Basildon council was infringing international human rights in three areas – the right of ethnic minorities to be protected, the right to adequate housing and the right to be protected from forced evictions.

An eviction headquarters and a temporary road to the site is being constructed by private contractors to facilitate next week's eviction of the largest unauthorised Travellers' site in Britain, where Travellers have lived on land they own for the last 10 years.

While the high court recently ruled that no human rights had been infringed during the lengthy dispute over the site, Travellers are planning to lodge another last-minute appeal, citing the declining health of elderly and sick residents on the site.