Date: Fri, October 28, 2005 11:29 am

Ustiben report
By Grattan Puxon

The UK Commission for Racial Equality will tell the High Court in London next month that Basildon council's decision to bulldoze Dale Farm, Britain's largest Gypsy settlement, is racially motivated.

Chairman Trevor Philips says he intends to ask the court on 29 November to allow CRE to join with Dale Farm residents in their application for a judicial review of the $4 million eviction plan.

At the same time, Tory MP John Baron, in whose Constituency this virtual village has been built, is asking Prime Minister Tony Blair to foot the bill for what will be the costliest and most heavily contested piece of ethnic-cleansing ever attempted under a Labour government.

Lobbying to ensure final victory for the anti-Gypsy camp, Baron is also meeting with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on l7 November to urge him not to grant retrospective planning permits for 85 chalets and mobile-homes at Dale Farm.

The secret blue-print for the eviction, drawn up by self-styled Gypsy clearance company Constant & Co., was pushed through by Basildon¹s far-right Conservative leader Malcolm Buckley against united Labour and Liberal opposition.

Buckley has vowed repeatedly to rid the town of what he calls unauthorised Gypsy caravans. Officials put their current number at 220, most belonging to the Sheridan clan.

"The courts can only delay this eviction by making us re-consider," Buckley contends. "The outcome will be the same and the sooner we get on with it the better."

Two private yards at nearby Hovefields Avenue have already been cleared, though Constant succeeded only in moving caravans a small distance. The operation, during which two women pro-Gypsy protesters were arrested, was hailed as a prelude to the mother-of-all-evictions at Oak Lane, Dale Farm.


A planning inspector has warned that the demolition of so many homes within a village community numbering over a thousand persons could take a week and escalate into a civil riot. The policing bill alone has been put at around $2 million.

Fire and rescue officers point out that entry of heavy machinery could endanger children's lives and contravene safety regulations. Trade unionists are being asked to consider a boycott.

The Sheridan clan, who bought Dale Farm and converted a car-wreck court into the original trailer park, are determined to avoid violence. They have set up a meeting with neighbouring house-dwellers at Crays Hill to try and sort out differences and have lodged fresh appeals for planning consent.

But members have told the local press repeatedly that they will not give up their homes and land without a fight.

Spokesman Richard Sheridan, who received a volunteer of the year award at the House of Lords last week for his work in the community, says Buckley¹s hardline racist attitude can be traced to Conservative Party policy adopted before the last UK general election.

On the eve of polling day, national party chief Michael Howard stood at Dale Farm¹s perimeter fence for a photo-shoot, pledging the Tories would take tough measures against such illegal encampments around Britain.

In the past two years, hundreds of Gypsy families have had homes bulldozed and their land seized. Several thousand more face being forced back on the road simply because planning permits have been withheld by prejudiced local authorities like Basildon.

Before the expected showdown, Sheridan is going with the UK delegation to the newly-created European Roma and Travellers Forum, meeting in Strasbourg on l6 December. Since the summer, the forum¹s emblematic Romani nation flag has been flying over Dale Farm¹s scaffold defence towers, surrounded by barbed-wire.

"We¹re making this stand against all the odds," says Sheridan. "Not for ourselves alone but for Travellers everywhere

Through the forum, to which delegates from Europe¹s ten million Roma in 40 countries have been elected this month, the Sheridans intend to link up with Travellers threatened with eviction elsewhere. They want Roma Nation Day on 8 April 2006 to be marked all across the continent by demonstrations against ethnic-cleansing.