Dale Farm eviction
In the 1970s, Basildon District Council had granted permission for the site to be used by a small number of traveller families. In 1996, an Irish travelling family bought the site for £122,000 and by 2011 it was Europe’s largest traveller site comprising 80 families.
However, planning permission had not been given for the expansion of the site onto land located within the green belt and in October 2011 permission was granted to clear the site.
The National Eviction Team’s role
The National Eviction Team was brought in to support the main contractor, supplying 70 male and female enforcement agents, all experienced in dealing with volatile situations. We led the project on site and were tasked with:
- Undertaking the role of primary negotiators to deal directly with the travellers on site
- Mobilising climbers to deal with all “at height” situations including trees and the scaffold tower for the removal of travellers and protesters
- Dealing with all lock-ons, some of which were very dangerous and complicated
- Removal of caravans, including lifting of static caravans onto vehicles and the removal of ancillary buildings such as garden sheds and out buildings
The police requested that they be allowed to enter the site first, in order to deal with some known persons of interest. Once they had completed their task, the enforcement team was mobilised and entered the site.
The first day was spent in dealing with the activists who had built the scaffolding tower at the entrance way to the travellers’ site (see above picture). Once dealt with, the focus then moved onto the travellers on the second day.
There were several phases involved including negotiating with and removing the travellers, removal of caravans, demolishing ancillary buildings along with clearance of the site.
This was a particularly challenging eviction which involved:
The mobilisation and then halting of any action whilst the travellers appealed to the High Court for a stay of execution. The team was on stand still at a local hotel for a week before being stood down whilst further enquiries were made by the High Court.
Their appeal failed and the enforcement team mobilised a month later and undertook the eviction.
Within this time frame, the activist support for the travellers had increased resulting in the National Eviction Team having to deal with two very distinct groups with different agendas.
Militant physical activists
The activists were militant and physical in their protests and approximately 20 of them climbed onto a platform on the scaffolding tower on the day of the eviction. It became clear that some of them had super-glued their hands onto the scaffolding pipes to prevent removal.
The police requested that their newly formed climbing team be allowed to remove these activists. Unfortunately, the scaffolding tower was unstable so the police withdrew. Our climbing team were then called upon and accessed the upper parts of the tower by being lowered from a crane.
They then systematically, and in a controlled way, removed the activists one by one. The last two activists decided to play "cat and mouse”, but the outcome was the same, as they were removed safely and unharmed.
There were other activists within the site who had engineered complex lock-on situations which proved very challenging for our specialist lock-on team.
Even though some of the multi-position lock-ons took some time to unravel and cut free, the team was successful in every situation, removing all protestors in a safe and controlled manner.
There was massive media interest with national news crew vehicles parked up, helicopters overhead and camera crews looking to record anything of interest to take the eviction to an international audience.
This no doubt heightened the tensions and it was part of our task to ensure that it did not delay or hinder our progress.
There were issues in the supply of power and fuel to parts of the site. The National Eviction Team took control to ensure that the supply continued whilst the travellers were still on site. There was one traveller on a dialysis machine and extra care was taken to ensure that she was looked after and cared for.
The successful outcome
The whole eviction took several weeks from start to finish.
Of all the evictions we have undertaken, there were more legal, technical and indeed day-to-day practical issues on this site than we have encountered on one location before and since.
The whole process was managed professionally, successfully and with no complaints against any of our enforcement agents.