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Dale Farm, Essex - Planning Issues

After a 10 year case between the Basildon Council and the Dale Farm Residents, the High Court determined that removal of the residents was necessary to avoid “the criminal law and the planning system being brought into serious disrepute” (Justice Ouseley). As has been featured widely in the news the Dale Farm residents have now been evicted.

Dale Farm is owned by its residents and is located within the green belt and has been subject to such green belt control since 1982.  Lying next to the Dale Farm site is an authorised travellers site known as Oak Lane where there is planning permission for 34 legal pitches. The problems however arose when the traveller families built 51 pitches at Dale Farm after being refused the necessary planning permission due to green belt policy. The erection of these pitches constituted a serious breach of planning control. Enforcement action was subsequently taken but the residents failed to comply and appealed against the same citing arguments based on human rights, issues of race and that there were insufficient sites for alternative accommodation.  

In July 2011 Basildon Council issued a 28 day notice to the travellers occupying the unauthorised pitches which required them to vacate the site in accordance with the enforcement notices which had been served over the many previous years. The notice expired at midnight on 31 August but an injunction was applied for by the Dale Farm however this was subsequently dismissed on the basis that finality to the ongoing case was required and human rights had been considered at all stages and therefore there were no grounds for such an injunction. The Council have emphasised that they are simply upholding the law and treating the travellers the same as anyone else by taking enforcement action and not discriminating against them as the travellers allege. The Council also state that it is vital to remember that the operation was a site clearance and not an eviction.   

There is still however much debate regarding the “eviction” and the arguments used to justify the same. Whilst some are stating that the evictions were necessary in accordance with planning laws others are suggesting that the planning laws had been used as justification to racism and ethnic cleansing.  I would say therefore that we have not seen the last of cases such as these particularly in view of the apparent lack of housing in the U.K and these differing opinions and arguments will no doubt feature and be afforded in such future cases.