Corporate Watch : June 01, 2011 : Companies likely to be involved in Dale Farm's imminent eviction

admin's picture

Basildon Council's Development Control and Traffic Management Committee agreed, on 24th May, to take out an injunction and go ahead with 'direct action' to secure compliance and enforcement notices at 51 pitches at Dale Farm, the largest traveller site in the UK. Enforcement action was voted through by five votes to two. 'Direct action eviction' had already been agreed in December 2007. The recent meeting was for the consideration of updated information in relation to the site. A 28-day notice to leave is now expected to be served any day. Another nearby site, Hovefields, is also under imminent threat with legal action currently in process.

The residents of Dale Farm are living on land that they have bought. Travellers throughout the country were encouraged to buy land to live on after the requirement for local authorities to provide caravan parks was removed. Now planning rules and re-classifying the land as green belt (the land was, in fact, being previously used as a scrap yard) are being used to justify an eviction which, having been criticised by both the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the United Nations, many believe is racially motivated.

Constant & co

In December 2009, bailiff firm Constant & Company was awarded the lucrative £1.9M contract for the Dale Farm eviction. The contract was awarded despite a High Court judge, having watched a video of a previous Constant eviction, saying it was "inappropriate" for Basildon Council to continue using the company.

The Bedford-based bailiffs specialise in traveller and squatter evictions and have a reputation for violence, having carried out brutal evictions such as the infamous Meadowlands and Twin Oaks evictions in 2004.

Constant's registered office is 136-140 Bedford Road, Kempston, Bedford, MK42 8BH, but its head office is located at 66 Harpur Street, Bedford, MK40 2RA. It also has a 'fully computerised' processing centre in Milton Keynes (163 Queensway, Bletchley, MK2 2DZ) and two smaller offices in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. More information on Constant & Co can be found in Corporate Watch's previous article on Dale Farm.

There have also been reports that equipment hire firm HE Services (Plant Hire) LTD is being used for the eviction. Corporate Watch have repeatedly called the company to establish if this is the case, but all enquiries were directed to chairman Hugh Edleanu, who was "unavailable for comment." We have written an open letter asking if HE Services will ensure that their company's equipment is not used for the eviction of Dale Farm (see here).

Camp Constant

The campaign in support of Dale Farm is growing, with preparatory work on-going around the country. Adjacent to the site due to be evicted, a protest camp dubbed Camp Constant will bring activists together to defend Dale Farm once the 28-day notice has been issued. For more information, see the campaign to save Dale Farm's blog.

Last minute reprieve due to new EU Gypsy strategy?

A new strategy drawn up by the European Commission could mean a last-minute reprieve for Dale Farm. The UK has until the end of this year to draw up a national plan to ensure that every homeless Traveller has access to suitable accommodation. The deadline has been imposed by the European Commission on all EU member states as part of its new strategy to tackle the widespread social exclusion of Gypsy communities.

Under the plan, expected to be finally adopted in June, Britain will have to submit a ten-year Gypsy and Traveller integration programme to the Commission by the end of this year, which will then be assessed annually. “With this EU plan in place,” said Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council, “we don’t believe the government will allow £20 million to be wasted on an eviction at Dale Farm.”

In further legal developments in the UK, a Judicial Review is also in process challenging Eric Pickles decision to release £1.2 million towards the £5m cost of clearing Dale Farm. In addition, Essex Police are still waiting to hear if their application to the Home Office for around £10million to police the eviction has been granted.