Stop victimising travellers!

Submitted by Anon on 3 May, 2005 - 11:33

The Tories have used the election campaign to pour scorn and hatred on gypsies and travellers. This has spurred the Sun newspaper into an explicitly racist "Stamp on the Camps" campaign against travellers, and there has been an increase in physical attacks on travellers.

Back in March Michael Howard began his hate campaign by saying travellers were given preferential treatment over the settled community on planning permission. In fact, travellers receive discriminatory treatment. Despite their best efforts, 90% of planning applications from travellers are refused. Once planning permission has been refused, travellers - the young, the sick and the old included - can be evicted from their sites, that is, the land they have bought to live on.

Yet, travellers have no choice but to develop the land they have bought - local councils no longer have any statutory obligation to provide a sufficient number of plots. There are an estimated shortage of 4,500 plots in the UK.

Solidarity spoke to Gratton Puxon about how the travelling community is responding to these developments.

"We are standing a candidate - Sylvia Dunn - in the Folkestone constituency, against Michael Howard, and she is being sponsored by the Peace and Progress Party. Michael Howard began his campaign against us by visiting the site where Sylvia lives - Dale Farm near Basildon in Essex. This has around 1,000 residents and is the biggest site in the UK. Michael Howard made his speeches to the press outside there, outlining Tory policy. He did not speak to any travellers.

"Michael Howard pointed to the site, saying this was an illegal site. But that wasn't true. Dale Farm does in fact have planning permission. It is due to expire on 13 May and 50 plots, 500 people, will be evicted. Travellers have been living in the area since 1950. Four years ago an old scrap yard was bought and Dale Farm was created. It is very highly developed, more like a village, with gardens and so on.

"These evictions are terrible, brutal events - we have documentary evidence about how bad they can be. Basildon Council - a Tory run council - is determined to go ahead. They have paid £20,000 to the bailiffs for a proposal about how to do it. They have set aside £1.5 million for the eviction. Just think what they could do with that money! How they could help us develop the site.

"We want to develop the site. We have created the Dale Farm Housing Association to help us do that.

"The Government has recently changed the policy so that councils have to consider the needs of travellers in their long-term housing plans. However they are not going to designate land which travellers can acquire and where planning permission is going to be guaranteed. That is what travellers want now. We would prefer this to the policy of designated council sites. However the Government does not want to come down hard on councils, because it is unpopular.

"Consequently our people are being evicted. There have been 10 major evictions in recent years, we have lost 200-250 family plots. That means children have been taken out of schools. The evictions have traumatised our children. We are calling it an ethnic cleansing.

"The Tories are playing the race-card and this is very dangerous. It has stirred up hate. Children are getting more abuse at school. A site near Brighton was stoned. A caravan at a site in Kent was fire-bombed.

"We have complained about the Sun's ˜Stamp on the Camps' campaign. We hope there will be a prosecution and that is being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service. But we aren't holding our breath as other complaints we have made have failed.

"Our campaign is a self-help thing. We haven't got very much support. Please try and get to the freedom march on 14 May."

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.