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New documents reveal Basildon Council’s planning double standards Posted on September 22, 2011 by dalefarmsupport
Aerial photo of Dale Farm when it was a scrapyard in 1992. The right half with all the cars doesn't have planning permission. The left greener side does have planning permission. A high resolution 94M version is available at http://db.tt/IgVBtWVK . Information at http://goo.gl/eT7mS
Planning documents obtained for the address nearest to Dale Farm owned by a member of the ‘settled’ community reveal that it was built as an “unlawful development” and then given retrospective planning permission. Additionally, Basildon Council served Enforcement notices on the owners of the property but never took action to put them into effect.(1)
The documents reveal that Tony Ball’s often-repeated claims regarding Travellers at Dale Farm that “[t]hey are being treated exactly the same way as any other citizen,” is incorrect. (2)
In an ironic twist, the property known as Windyridge, is currently owned by the prominent anti-traveller activist Len Gridley. His father owned the land and illegally developed it, while according to the Council documents Len lived in an illegal mobile home on the site (3).
Steve Dixby who rented a workshop next door and helped build the illegal dwelling said, “When I moved into them workshops there wasn’t a building there…there was nothing but a concrete slab on the land with a tarpaulin over it. I helped the owner put down some bricks and he built a tin roof building.”
He continued: “That place got built in the 80s. There were no buildings in that field before then, just a slab – that was Windy Ridge. There was no planning permission. They were all chancers buying greenbelt land on the cheap and hoping to get away with building on it. Then when someone else tries to do what they done, like with the Travellers, they don’t want it to happen and they make a fuss. But they were all chancers.” (4)
Subsequently, Len Gridley successfully applied for planning permission to extend his illegally constructed dwelling, despite the ongoing enforcement notices against the caravans and mobile homes not having been complied with. In 2002 these caravans were refused planning permission but remain there today (5)
Hannah Roberts from Dale Farm Solidarity said, “Tony Ball is backed into a corner by the revelations of the council’s double standard in dealing with breaches of planning regulation from the settled and Traveller communities. The government justifies making 400 people homeless by saying that rules must apply to everyone. It’s not true. And they never mention that 90% of Traveller planning applications are rejected, as opposed to only 20% overall. This eviction must be called off.”
UN representatives are to visit Dale Farm next week. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Jewish community were due to visit Dale Farm Travellers' camp on Sunday to offer their support to 400 people facing eviction from the green belt site in Essex.
On Friday a UN committee called on the government to suspend the "immature and unwise" eviction, saying it would "disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people".
The camp has also received support from Franciscan friars, who last week blessed the site, as well as Anglican and Catholic bishops.
Rabbi Janet Burden said: "People may not be aware that the Travellers, along with the Gypsies and a limited number of other groups with similar lifestyle patterns, are officially recognised as ethnic minorities, just like our own Jewish community. As such, they deserve protection under European human rights law."
Burden compared the "vilification" of Travellers to the discrimination Jews faced in the first half of the 20th century.
"The language used clearly echoes the rhetoric of antisemitism," she said. "If you don't believe this, have a look at the website jewify.org for examples of newspaper articles which substitute the word Jew for Gypsy or Traveller. The results are quite chilling. I believe that the obligation to protect this ethnic minority's way of life is a human rights issue that, in this particular and unusual case, may need to trump the planning law designed to protect the green belt."
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, warned last week that there was a great risk of human rights violations if the eviction went ahead.
"If they go ahead with the eviction that would be very immature and unwise," Hammarberg said. "The only way to do this is for the government or the authority in Basildon to appoint people who have trust on both sides to find an agreed solution."
Tony Ball, leader of Basildon council, has repeatedly defended the eviction saying the proposals have been tested through the courts.
"Everyone is entitled to their views," he said last week. "I'm clear that the overwhelming majority of residents of Basildon and in the country support what Basildon council are doing. Local authorities are expected to uphold the law."
Camp residents said representatives from the UN would be visiting the site on 14 September. Jenny Clapham said the growing support for the campaign had given people a boost, but residents were aware they faced an uphill battle to remain on the site.
"There is a very serious mood in the camp about the challenges we face if we are going to win this and overturn the eviction decision," she said.
• This article was amended on 5 September 2011. The original referred to Franciscan monks. This has been corrected.
This year marks the 24th anniversary of the infamous police attack on travellers on their way to Stonehenge in an incident now known as the Battle Of The Beanfield.
“What I have seen in the last thirty minutes here in this field has been some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist. The number of people who have been hit by policemen, who have been clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field, is yet to be counted. There must surely be an enquiry after what has happened today.” - Ken Sabido ITN journalist.
Twenty four years have passed since the defining moment of the Thatcher government’s assault on the traveller movement - the Battle of the Beanfield. On June 1st 1985 a convoy of vehicles set off from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire towards Stonehenge, with several hundred travellers on their way to setting up the 14th Stonehenge Free Festival. But this year English Heritage, who laughably were legally considered the owners of the Stonehenge Sarsen circle (built several thousand years before by god knows who), had secured an injunction against trespass naming 83 people. This was considered legal justification enough for a brutal assault on the entire convoy. What followed was a police riot and the largest mass arrest in British history.
As the Convoy made its way to the Stones the road was blocked with tonnes of gravel and it was diverted down a narrow country lane, which was also blocked. Suddenly a group of police officers came forward and started to break vehicle windows with their truncheons. Trapped, the convoy swung into a field, crashing through a hedge.
For the next four hours there was an ugly stalemate. The Convoy started trying to negotiate, offering to abandon the festival and return to Savernake Forest or leave Wiltshire altogether. The police refused to negotiate and told them they could all surrender or face the consequences.
At ten past seven the ‘battle’ began. In the next half hour, the police operation “became a chaotic whirl of violence.” Convoy member Phil Shakesby later gave his account of the day:
“The police came in [to the grass field] and they were battering people where they stood, smashing homes up where they were, just going wild. Maybe about two-thirds of the vehicles actually started moving and took off, and they chased us into a field of beans.
By this time there were police everywhere, charging along the side of us, and wherever you went there was a strong police presence. Well, they came in with all kinds of things: fire extinguishers and one thing and another. When they’d done throwing the fire extinguishers at us, they were stoning us with these lumps of flint.”
By the end of the day over four hundred were under arrest and dispersed across police stations around the whole of the south of England. Their homes had been destroyed, impounded and in some cases torched.
THE VAN GUARD?
In today’s surveillance society Britain it is seems inconceivable that festivals like the Stonehenge Free Festival ever happened. At their height these gatherings attracted 30,000 people for the solstice celebration - 30,000 people celebrating and getting on with it without any need for the state or its institutions. The festivals themselves were just the highpoint of a year-round lifestyle of living in vehicles. As one traveller said at the time, “The number of people who were living on buses had been doubling every year for four years. It was anarchy in action, and it was seen to be working by so many people that they wanted to be a part of it too.”
Having seen off the miners strike – the first casualties in the plan to re-order Britain according to neo-liberal economics (or as it was known locally - Thatcherism), the state turned its force on a more subtle threat. This time not people fighting for jobs and a secure place in the system but people who rejected that system outright. Although prejudice against travellers was nothing new, the traditional ‘ethnic’ travelling minority represented no significant threat to the status quo that couldn’t be dealt with by local authorities. But to many of the millions left unemployed by the Thatcher revolution, life on the road looked increasingly appealing. This was inconvenient for a state determined that conditions for the unemployed be miserable enough to spur them into any form of low-paid work.
WHEELS ON FIRE
The propaganda directed against the so-called ‘peace convoys’ by all sections of the media created an atmosphere which allowed draconian action. The Beanfield was not an isolated incident. The Nostell Priory busts of the previous year were a vicious foreboding of what was to come. Months before the Beanfield a convoy-peace camp site at Molesworth was evicted by police acting with 1500 troops and bulldozers headed by a flak-jacketed Michael Heseltine, then Defence Secretary. In 1986 Stoney Cross in the New Forest saw another mass eviction. At the time Thatcher said she was "only too delighted to do what we can to make things difficult for such things as hippy convoys". This attempt to create a separate yet peaceful existence from mainstream society was to be ruthlessly suppressed.
Over the next ten years – notably with the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice Act 1994 the whole lifestyle was virtually outlawed. As John Major said at the Tory Party conference in 1992 to thunderous applause: “New age travellers – not in this age – not in any age”. The CJA removed the duty of councils to provide stop-over sites for travellers and regular evictions began to punctuate traveller life. But it wasn’t all one way, thousands stayed on the road and the free festival circuit was infused with fresh blood from the rave scene. Even after the massive crackdown that followed the Castlemorton free festival the convoys in many cases moved onto road protest sites.
Ultimately however travellers were forced to adapt - abandoning the garish war paint of the hippy convoys for more anonymous vans, moving and taking sites in smaller groups. Many went abroad or were driven back into the cities. However, despite the worst excesses of the cultural clampdown, travellers remain all over the country. Many are now in smaller groups, inconspicuous and unregistered. It’s become more common for vehicle dwellers to take dis-used industrial sites blurring then lines between travelling and squatting.
The fact that Stonehenge is now open again on the solstice might - on the face of it - look like a victory. But the event is a top-down affair complete with massive police presence, burger vans and floodlights – a far cry from the anarchistic experiments of the 70s and 80s. A smaller gathering had been permitted just down the road at the Avebury stone circle over recent years with the National Trust taking a far more lenient stance on live-in vehicles than English Heritage. But even there, since 2007, there's now a ban on overnight stays on the solstice.
Much of the festival circuit these days is in the hands of profit-motivated commercial promoters apart from the growing shoots of a range of smaller festivals, who continue in the spirit of people-led celebrations of community co-operation. But festivals today are also mostly buried under an avalanche of red tape and security, health and safety requirements - The Big Green gathering saw its security costs treble in one year (2007) as they were told to ‘terrorist harden’ the event.
When popular history recalls the pivotal moments in the mid-80s for Thatcher's Britain, the Battle Of The Beanfield rarely adequately takes its place alongside the Miners Strike and Wapping. For UK Plc, travellers became - and remain - another 'enemy within', to be dealt with by organised state violence, like all others who have found an escape route from a society subordinated to profit, where freedom had been reduced to a series of consumer choices.
From that article, comments from ITN journalist Kim Sabido: "What we - the ITN camera crew and myself as a reporter - have seen in the last 30 minutes here in this field has been some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist. The number of people who have been hit by policemen, who have been clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field, is yet to be counted...There must surely be an enquiry after what has happened today. || When I got back to ITN during the following week and I went to the library to look at all the rushes, most of what I'd thought wed shot was no longer there,” recalls Sabido. “From what I’ve seen of what ITN has provided since, it just disappeared, particularly some of the nastier shots."
The article also states: "Some but not all of the missing footage has since surfaced on bootleg tapes and was incorporated into the Operation Solstice documentary shown on Channel Four in 1991."
And, featuring a young Nick Davies:
The story of 'The Battle of the Beanfield' 1985 and the subsequent court case.
The Battle of the Beanfield took place on the afternoon of Saturday 1 June 1985 when Wiltshire Police prevented a vehicle convoy of New Age Travellers from setting up the fourteenth Stonehenge Free Festival at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. The incident became notorious for accusations of a police riot that is reported to have taken place.
Those in the Convoy insist that police attacked their procession of vehicles by entering the field where they were being contained, methodically smashing windows, beating people on the head with truncheons, and using sledgehammers to damage the interiors of their coaches, an account supported by all the independent witnesses and upheld by the subsequent court verdicts.
The Beanfield was the next field down from where the vehicles were being contained; and when a large number of police entered the first field, many of the Convoy vehicles tried to escape by going through the Beanfield, where they were pursued and arrested by police.
At the time, the police alleged that they responded after they had earlier come under attack, being pelted with lumps of wood, stones and even petrol bombs, though they did not repeat these allegations in any of the subsequent court cases and no proof for any of them has ever come to light. Whilst the full account of events remains in dispute, a court judgement six years later found the police guilty of wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage.
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Travellers lose legal battle against Dale Farm eviction But dwellers plan to 'stand ground and resist removal'
By John Aston and Brian Farmer
Thursday October 13 2011
Residents of Dale Farm, the UK's largest illegal Travellers' site, have lost their High Court battle against eviction -- but are now planning an appeal.
They attempted to block their removal from the controversial site near Basildon, Essex, in three linked applications for judicial review.
Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, ruled yesterday they had delayed too long in challenging Basildon Council's decision to take direct action against them.
He said the Travellers were breaking criminal law on a daily basis by remaining on the site and their removal was necessary to avoid "the criminal law and the planning system being brought into serious disrepute".
The ruling was a victory for Basildon Council chiefs who have fought a costly 10-year campaign to clear the site.
Traveller lawyers had argued the council's decision earlier this year to take direct action to clear the green belt site of 400 residents, including about 100 children, was in breach of their human rights.
The judge said he recognised that the removal of the Travellers was going to cause "considerable distress and disruption -- but in my judgment, the time has manifestly come for steps to enforce the law to be taken".
The judge refused the Travellers permission to appeal, but those in court said they would ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear their case. Candy Sheridan, vice-chair of the Gypsy Council, said: "We are disappointed. We are not surprised but the fight goes on. We will be seeking permission to appeal."
Travellers at the Dale Farm site said last night that they were going to stand their ground and resist eviction.
Dale Farm Solidarity member, Jake Fulton, said: "People are already flooding back, both travellers and supporters. We are expecting a big swell over the next couple of days and we'll be ready for when they come."
Dale Farm resident Margaret McCarthy said: "We're used to it. We're always losing when we come here. We won't give up."
Kathleen McCarthy said: "They talk about us being criminals. But if we're evicted we'll be forced to break the law again because we'll have no option but to stop on the roadside or in supermarket car parks. Where's the sense in that?"
Ms Sheridan added: "It is not the end of the road. It is not the end of the story. We have instructed our barrister to lodge an appeal.
"We cannot let Basildon Council proceed with this so-called lawful eviction. It will send the wrong message to the rest of the country."
And she urged senior Conservative and Labour politicians to address the issue. "I would very much like to hear from (Labour leader) Ed Miliband. I would very much like five minutes of David Cameron's time. Mr Cameron come and have a closer look and meet with us."