Date: Fri, June 24, 2005 8:38 am

Ustiben report


By Grattan Puxon

In what must go down as the most notorious decision by a local council in the history of the Gypsy civil rights movement, Basildon councillors voted late last night to bulldoze Dale Farm, Britain's largest Travellers' village.

Many wept openly as Nora Gore, a young woman suffering from diebetes, begged chairman Sheila Buckley not to push through a decision which would cost her both home and health - and possibly her life.

But when the packed meeting overflowed into Basildon town square, the people of Dale Farm vowed to continue the fight. Their next hope is an application for a judicial review, allowing a British high court to rule on the validity of a council motion which one speaker called an echo from the era of the early years of Nazi Germany.

Tory councillors sat poker faced when a local resident pleaded for a deferrent of the eviction option until Dale Farm home-owners could be found somewhere else to go. A petition signed by some 350 people in the parish appeared to cut no ice.

Certainly the stakes have now been raised in what has been a long drawn-out drama. More than 130 homes, including chalets, mobile-homes and caravans, stand in the path of the giant JCB excavators set to be deployed for the demolition.

Ostensibly to return a bit of ground to greenbelt status, most of which had been a scrapyard, Basildon is paying Gypsy eviction specialists Constant & Co., private-sector thugs, an initial three million euro to do their dirty-work.

But the cost in terms of bricks and mortar is as nothing compared with the terror and destruction to be wrought in the lives of nearly 200 children who make up the innocent of this close-knit community. Their lives are to be mercelessly trashed - unless a judge or - can we even hope? - the British government intervenes.

It is within the remit of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to put on hold what is techically a planning policy issue. A delegation is going to 10 Downing Street to seek just such a reprieve.Todate however Prime Minister Tony Blair, while meeting anti-Gypsy MP John Barron, within whose constituency Dale Farm stands, has refused even to receive Traveller spokesmen and is unlikely to open his door on this occasion.

************************************* WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP DALE FARM

Email messages to:

Basildon District Council at

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister at

Join Human Rights Monitoring team to be present at eviction: ustiben.5 ( a t )

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