Legacy of Dale Farm: Nine months after £7m battle to remove
travellers, the site that was meant to be green belt has become a
By Arthur Martin
PUBLISHED: 23:28, 21 June 2012 | UPDATED: 00:01, 22 June 2012
It was supposed to be turned back into green belt land.
But almost nine months after more than £7million was spent evicting
travellers at Dale Farm, the site has become a dumping ground for
Industrial waste, rotting food and discarded furniture cover what used to
be Europe's largest illegal travellers' site.
Rats and foxes now roam across the six-acre plot causing potential health
risks to homeowners living nearby.
Craters left by the bailiffs' heavy machinery have filled with stagnant
water. The stench of human waste is overpowering.
Conditions have become so bad that the homeowner who led a ten-year
campaign to remove the travellers said life was better before the
Len Gridley, 53, whose garden backs on to Dale Farm, said yesterday:
'It's worse now than it was when the travellers were there. First, I was
living next to a travellers' site. Now it's a bombsite.
'Either way, no one would want to buy my home. The site is an absolute
tip and I have rats living all along the back of my garden.'
Others say the value of their homes has dropped by 20 per cent because of
the stigma attached to the site. An estimated £50million has been wiped
off the value of the 400 properties in the village of Crays Hill, Essex,
since the travellers colonised the site in 2001. Basildon Council had
promised to return the site to 'green belt'
Part of the illegal site now strewn with rubbish and has become
a filthy eyesore
Pensioner Henry Scott, who lives nearby, has been trying to sell his
home for two years, but has had no offers.
He said: 'Who is going to rush to buy a house here with Dale Farm and the
Basildon Council evicted the travellers and their supporters following a
tense stand-off last October. The council is now responsible for turning
it back into green belt land. However, council leader Tony Ball hinted
that the mess would not be cleared until next year.
He said the site, which is owned by the travellers, could not be cleared
until the council had recovered some of the eviction costs.
The council may even seize the site from the travellers as an asset to
offset its clearance costs. It would then be able to clean it
However, the local authority may face a costly and protracted court
battle to gain ownership of the plot. The travellers, funded by legal
aid, would almost certainly fight to block the application.
After the successful clean-up operation last year, many of the travellers
moved onto the legal section of Dale Farm.
And once the bailiffs had left, some families parked their caravans and
mobile homes along the road which approaches the site.
Many are still living illegally on this stretch of road, despite attempts
to move them on.
One 58-year-old traveller, who refused to be named, said: 'The council
spent nearly £8million here and for what?
'When we were on the site we kept it clean now look at the place. It's
become a local dumping ground.'
A council spokesman said: 'Local authorities can only tackle fly-tipping
on public land, highways and lay-bys. Fly-tipping on private land such as
the Dale Farm site is the responsibility of the landowner.
'However, we can refer extreme cases that we consider detrimental to the
environment to the Environment Agency, who will decide whether to take