How Green was their Valley?


The aerial photograph below is said to show the travellers site at Dale Farm in Essex before the travellers began to remove the scrap cars and develop part of the site without planning permission. Something of the back story is contained in the BBC report at http://tinyurl.com/6z2yjpk. It is hard to square the image below with the language of green fields that many of the news reports have referred to.

The site was sold 10 years ago to the travellers by a man called Ray Bocking. His views are contained in a couple of new stories are presented at http://tinyurl.com/6jvsje6 and http://tinyurl.com/5uv92om.

If these two stories contain some elements of the truth it seems possible that the land was no green field and even if the land is part of the greenbelt, that the Council were complicit in its browning.

Bocking is reported to say “Basildon council’s engineering department put down the rough tracks leading to the farm and dumped hardcore and other waste material on the site……Dale Farm was a swamp and a breaker’s yard for years. It was rubbish ground.” Bocking said the council helped him put down hardcore because he had a contract with the council to collect abandoned cars and he was asked to store them on the site.

This account seems at great odds to the image painted by the words of the judge in the recent appeal when the same council were seeking permission to evict these families: “There are before me four claims by over 40 families of mainly Irish Travellers or Gypsies who are resident on unauthorised sites in the Council’s district.  The land which they occupy is in the Green Belt and planning permission has been refused.  Enforcement notices have been served and upheld on appeal.  The Council now seeks to remove their caravans from the land they occupy and to enforce compliance with the notices by removing the hard standing which has been placed on the land so that it is restored to its natural state.”

As we know the law is the law and the truth is the truth. The problem is that sometimes the truth and the law are distant cousins and news reports are often even more distant cousins. One wonders where the truth actually lies in this case. As has been referred to on this blog before, there is £18M of public money that is potentially about to be spent on this eviction, let alone the human cost for the families and the police officers involved and the implications for the 80 families that will be seeking somewhere new to live. However public money does not always get spent wisely in Essex.  Until 2010 Lord Hanningfield, the now disgraced peer was leader of Essex County Council. On one occasion he is alleged to have spent £62,000 on a fact-finding trip of USA. He also appears to have intervened to remove support from the travellers provided by local churches and other voluntary groups at Dale Farm http://tinyurl.com/3gz2893. His judgements have recently been called into question following his conviction for fraudulent claims of his overnight expenses from the Lords whilst the County Council were paying a chauffeur to drive him 50 miles home each night. A good end to this sorry story would be if someone from local or central government could match the wisdom and grace of Candy Sheridan who is mentioned in the first link above and spoke so helpfully on this mornings Radio 4 Today programme on behalf of the Travellers. Preferably someone who knows the truth of this story. Would Eric Pickles whose constituency is barely 8 miles away be the man for the job?

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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