Cray’s Hill in Essex was the site of the Dale Farm encampment of Irish Travellers on land owned by members of the Travelling Community. It began to be used as a site when a planning permission appeal was won by two Traveller families in the early 80s. At its peak the site housed over 1,000 Travellers. Because the land - although previously a scrap yard - was designated as Green Belt, planning permission was denied by the local Basildon Council. In May 2008 the situation seemed to have been resolved when the Travellers won their case against Basildon Council in the High Court. However, the ’08 result was overturned in 2010. In October 2011, after ten years of legal contention, a clearance order for the site was executed. The council contracted Constance & Co., a notoriously heavy-handed firm of bailiffs, to clear Dale Farm. When Sean Risdale (from the Commission of Racial Equality) visited Dale Farm prior to the evictions he found “a well-ordered set of domestic plots in the middle of a sprawling ex-scrapyard, not a beauty spot violated by unruly incomers... (but) a warm, friendly place to visit, with a very strong sense of community cohesion”.(Ibid).
The Gypsy Council possess documentary evidence that the Constance & Co. bailiffs who cleared Dale Farm “ignored safety regulations and acted with brutality towards women and children, and burned caravans”. The Daily Mail reported that “Police stormed what was Britain’s biggest illegal Traveller settlement using stun guns and sledgehammers arresting 43 people as 80 families were removed”. A social worker, Ann Kobayashi, was asked by the local priest, Fr. John Glynn, to visit Dale Farm to assess the situation. She despairingly summarised the problems the local residents had with the Travellers in Dale Farm; “They couldn’t have lined up three worse tics: Travellers, Catholic, Irish”. Fr. Glynn subsequently declared “This is ethnic cleansing. I’m ashamed to say I’m British”. (Ibid).
Mental and Physical After Effects:
A year on from the evictions a report by MPs from an all-party parliamentary group quoted in the Guardian newspaper that “scores of Travellers removed from the Dale Farm site have suffered mental or physical illness after being forced to live in squalor following the controversial eviction”. While a former Dale Farm resident commented: “Eight million quid it cost them and what has it done?... we were promised new sites but they’ve never come so we have just stayed on the road... at Dale Farm we had shower blocks, toilets, everything... now we’ve just been left living on the roadside”. (Ibid)