As police clash with protesters during evictions at Dale Farm, the UK’s largest illegal traveller site, Channel 4 News looks at what the future may hold for the evicted residents.
Bailiffs and police in riot gear have moved into Dale Farm, in Essex, to evict hundreds of travellers who, the local council says, do not have a legal right to be on the land.
The travellers are being backed up by protesters who believe the human rights of the residents are being infringed.
As the stand-off continues, Channel 4 News has spoken to both Basildon Council and supporters of the travellers to find out what could happen next.
Ellie Wilkinson, a supporter of the Dale Farm travellers, said the travellers and their supporters do not want to back down.
Why are they staying? Because they really have nowhere else to go. Ellie Wilkinson, supporter of the Dale Farm travellers
“People want to resist as long as possible. The barricades are really all that is standing between the families and homelessness,” she said.
The travellers have lost their high court challenges against the eviction, so that course is no longer an option – despite previous last-ditch attempts to prevent their removal.
Ms Wilkinson told Channel 4 News that the majority of travellers are still on the site because they have nowhere else to go, although many children have been moved to the legal half of the site, which has 34 plots.
“If they had somewhere else to go they would have gone,” she said.
“The eviction is putting families out on the roadside. Why are they staying? Because they really have nowhere else to go.”
Get the latest on the clashes at the Dale Farm evictions
Despite the defiance at Dale Farm, it seems inevitable that the travellers will have to leave their site as the police continue to support the bailiff’s operations.
Basildon Council maintains that this does not mean they are being thrown out onto the street, however.
A spokesman for the council told Channel 4 News that they had made repeated and varied alternative accommodation offers to the travellers over the last six months.
He said: “We have encouraged them to make homelessness applications over approximately the last six months. We have made over 50 offers of temporary accommodation, none of which have been accepted.
“We have also made them aware of a number of authorised and unoccupied legal pitches around the country.”
The council spokesman said the council had worked with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Essex County Council to find alternative options for the travellers in the local area as well. These talks were confidential, but broke down when they were leaked.
The travellers say the council has refused offers of land from the HCA. The HCA has communicated to the local MEP, in a letter of 31 August, that they have some pitches available and are willing to work with the council to make them suitable.
However Basildon Council told Channel 4 News that a planning application was recently submitted and refused at an example of this land, at Pound Lane.
Traveller sites have to get planning permission and then a number of conditions have to be adhered to by the occupants, which makes things more complex. This why the travellers cannot simply shift over permanently to the legal half of their site at Dale Farm.
This could be a temporary move but would just set them up for another battle as they would be in breach of the planning conditions on that part of the site, not least that only one mobile home is allowed per pitch.
There are 113 authorised pitches in the borough, compared to some places like Southend where there are none. We have a history of working with travellers. Basildon Council spokesman
The Basildon Council spokesman said these were reasons why the situation was more complicated than it seemed. He added: “No other applications for HCA-owned land have been made, but any applications would be considered on their merits.”
For now the stand-off continues. But the council is at pains to point out that it believes all other options are being presented to the travellers.
“It is not simple. The site has to be in the right place,” the spokesman added.
“There are 113 authorised pitches in the borough, compared to some places like Southend where there are none. We have a history of working with travellers.”