Local News - Heart Essex - Call To Halt Essex Travellers Eviction

Human rights campaigners have called for a halt to the eviction of families living on the UK's largest illegal travellers' site in Essex.

Amnesty International says the planned eviction of almost 100 families living on Dale Farm, near Basildon, could leave up to 400 people homeless and urged a negotiated solution.

Basildon Council officials, supported by Essex Police, are expected to take action to clear the site next month if the travellers do not leave by August 31.

The cost of the clearance is expected to reach £9.5 million.

Travellers' groups have said they are unwilling to meet this deadline and hundreds of people have pledged to join them in "non-violent resistance''.

The plea from Amnesty follows similar calls from Raquel Rolnik, the UN's special rapporteur on housing, and Rita Izak, a UN independent expert on minority issues.

Traveller families settled on the former scrapyard more than a decade ago. About 110 children are thought to live there. The eviction notice applies to about half the plots which are unauthorised developments.

The land is owned by traveller families but they have been denied permission to build residential properties. Some have been offered "bricks and mortar'' housing as an alternative but many do not want this. They fear they will be unable to find a culturally suitable alternative.

Council leader Tony Ball said the authority had spent the last 10 years trying to find a peaceful solution and the council was still working to find a solution without the need for a clearance.

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: "The British courts have found that the developments at Dale Farm are in breach of planning law and Basildon District Council is within its rights to evict travellers from the site.''

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