UK: Basildon Council orders Dale Farm families to pay for their own eviction

In October 2011, Basildon Council violently evicted 83 families from land they owned (at Dale Farm) because they did not have planning permission. Now, Basildon Council has told families who have virtually nothing left that they must pay £4.3 million for the cost of the eviction!

Many of the families had lived in Basildon for over 10 years: their children were born in the borough, attend the local school and were the first generation in the community to learn to read and write. The bulldozers turned this once thriving and close-knit community into a virtual wasteland, creating deep troughs and huge banks of earth to make it uninhabitable.

In the 18 months since the eviction, the families, including elderly people, young children and those with serious health conditions, have been living in refugee camp conditions by the side of the road leading to their former home. They have limited access to electricity, heating, running water and sanitation.

In 2006, an official planning needs assessment stated the need for 157-163 new pitches for ‘Gypsy’ and Traveller families in Basildon by 2011. In that time, the Council provided no new pitches. Rather than help the families identify sites where they could get planning permission, Basildon Council spent a significant proportion of its budget on protracted legal proceedings, the infamous Dale Farm eviction and a recent £1.1 million contract for bailiffs to complete more evictions in the future.

Families at Dale Farm have always said that they would leave Dale Farm if there was somewhere else for them to go. The Council knows that the families have no way of ever paying the £4.3 million eviction price and have stated that they will seize Dale Farm in lieu of costs.

This is a shocking land grab by the council, who are forcing the families to pay for the unjust eviction that made them homeless.

Mary Sheridan, a former Dale Farm resident, said “Basildon Council say we have to pay for what they did to us. Imagine all the good things they could’ve done with that money, instead of making us homeless — new sites or putting it into schools or doctors for people. We didn’t choose what happened to us, they did — we’ve paid enough already, we’ve already lost our homes and had our community torn apart, but they still want more.

This isn’t really a human way to be living or to treat people. It’s not a way for government people or councils to be carrying on. It’s really horrible that in this century, people can treat people like that and get away with it. It’s absolutely horrible. I know our kids and other people in 20 or 30 years time, or 100 years from now, they are going to say ‘How did England let that happen?’”

• A petition has been launched in protest