In a further blow to the Traveller families living at Dale Farm, the Court of Appeal has turned down their appeal application to the House of Lords, the final appeal court in the UK.
This follows the Court of Appeal ruling on 22 January which overturned an earlier High Court ruling quashing a decision by Basildon Council to forcibly remove the families from their land.
Families have lived at the site at Dale Farm since the 1960s and, although they own the land, they have been denied permission to develop it because the area now falls within the Green Belt.
The Dale Farm families have joined with the Equal Rights Trust to lobby Law Lords to hear their case in a last ditch attempt to have the Court of Appeal decision overturned. They are also holding meetings with their lawyers to determine what other legal avenues might still be open to them.
Homelessness applications lodged
Following the Court of Appeal decision, Basildon Council issued the families with a letter stating that there would be no immediate attempt at eviction and that families would be given a twenty-eight day warning of any impending attempt at forcible removal.
Meanwhile, Dale Farm Housing Association has set up a monitoring group with support from the UN Habitat agency. The monitors will be deployed to track the way in which Basildon Council deals with the growing body of homelessness applications which have been lodged by the Dale Farm families. Currently sixty applications (covering eighty adults and 102 children) have been submitted to the council, although this number is expected to rise.
Basildon Council has said it will fulfill its duty to provide for families whose applications are accepted. But it has already rejected a joint housing application and some two dozen individual applications, claiming people had made themselves ‘intentionally’ homeless.
It has also so far rejected all requests for land where the ninety families involved could re-establish their community and continue to live in mobile-homes, saying it has no space for a mobile-home park. Basildon is the largest district in the East of England Region, covering almost forty-five square miles. All applicants have stated their aversion to bricks and mortar and said that they do not want to live in houses or flats.
Fears about eviction process
A meeting with senior police officers and senior council staff is also being sought amid concerns about the safety of young children, the sick and elderly. It is hoped that an agreement can be reached about their safe evacuation prior to the arrival at Dale Farm of any heavy demolition equipment, together with bailiffs and an anticipated large contingent of police officers, many possibly in riot gear.
See the Court of Appeal decision
Read an IRR News story: Travellers awaiting court appeal speak of racism and prejudice