At 7.30pm on the 18th December, the Development Control & Traffic Management Committee of Basildon Council is meeting to consider a further eviction of the Dale Farm families they made homeless last October. The families have been living on the roadside of Oak Lane, adjacent to their former home, with inadequate sanitation, electricity and running water, for the last year.
This week this same Committee finally granted planning permission for a 15 pitch Traveller site in Basildon, after rejecting countless
applications by the Dale Farm families. There is a strong case that no eviction should go forward until the council has assessed the housing needs of the families and found culturally appropriate alternative accommodation for them.
We are asking supporters of the Dale Farm community to email the councillors sitting on this committee to urge them to halt these costly and confrontational eviction plans in favour of finding sustainable sites for the displaced families.
NB: Please be careful mentioning the conditions at Oak Lane at the moment, as this could be used by the Council as another excuse for eviction.
You can use our template below, or you can write your own/adapt the letter. The more individual your letter is, the more likely they are to take notice of it.
The email addresses are:
Dear Councillors S. Allen, P. Arnold, A. Hedley, C. Morris, P. Rackley and G. Williams,
I am writing to urge you to halt the planned enforcement action against the homeless Dale Farm families living on Oak Lane, Crays Hill.
83 families were made homeless by the Council’s enforcement action at Dale Farm in October 2011. Some of these families now live by the roadside at Oak Lane, where they can continue their children’s education at the local primary school and remain close to their elderly relatives, many of whom require extensive care. Further enforcement action will not provide a resolution to this situation. The families have nowhere else to go and so will be forced to stay on land that they do not own in Basildon, leading to further costly evictions. Neither side wants another costly eviction battle, or any repeat of last year’s events. It is the provision of sites, not forced evictions, which will provide a cost-effective and sustainable solution.
The permission granted to the Gardiner’s Lane site on Tuesday 11 December 2012 was a welcome and long-overdue step in the right direction, and will provide much needed accommodation for a small number of the many homeless Travellers in Basildon. I was also pleased to hear the recent announcement that the Council is commissioning a long overdue assessment of the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople housing needs in the Borough.
It has been predicted that the needs assessment will be completed by summer 2013 (in fact the Council has a duty to have completed its needs assessment by March 2013 under the Government’s Planning Policy for Traveller Sites and the National Planning Policy Framework). I understand that the intention is to move quickly with the development of the Gardiner’s Lane site, and for this to be ready for families to move on to before next Christmas. It is clear that the Council should not proceed with enforcement action against families on Oak Lane when many of these are highly eligible for pitches on the new site: according to all normal housing allocation policy criteria, they will meet the highest level of needs and are therefore extremely likely to be allocated pitches. It is unlikely that any kind of eviction action could be lawfully pursued until these allocations have been made and until eligible families have been able to move onto the new site.
A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on conditions at Oak Lane found a high level of serious health needs amongst the community: http://irishtraveller.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Dale-Farm-visit-report-September-2012-2.pdf. However, Basildon Borough Council’s procedures for assessing the welfare of the families living on Oak Lane have been deeply flawed and the Council has not upheld its duties under the Equality Act 2010. Under Section 29 of the Equality Act, the Council has a duty to provide information appropriately to a marginalised ethnic minority community with high levels of illiteracy, in particular where the impact of not doing is potentially severely detrimental and harmful to the community. The Council has not provided adequate time or support to the community in completing the forms, relying on written letters, a limited capacity SOS bus service, which has not been consistently able to attend the site over the last six weeks. Moreover, trust between the Council and the community is very low due to the use of previous assessments by the Council to facilitate legal action against them.
I am calling for the Development Control & Traffic Management Committee and Basildon Borough Council to:
1. Suspend enforcement action against the families living on Oak Lane, Crays Hill, pending completion of an adequate welfare assessment of the families and the completion of the Council’s long overdue needs assessment for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople sites.
2. Provide an adequate temporary alternative site for the families living at Oak Lane until need has been assessed and provided for. This would include ensuring the rapid development of the recently approved site at Gardiner’s way in order to meet the urgent housing needs of the community.
3. Support applications for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople sites in Basildon in order to meet the need for housing. As previously recommended by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Basildon should identify alternative culturally appropriate accommodation with full respect for the rights of the children and families involved.
I look forwards to a response from the Council detailing what action they will be taking to meet the housing needs of the families living on Oak Lane.
I would be grateful if you could also pass this letter on to Councillor Bennett.
With best wishes,