Dale Farm: children’s welfare

November 1, 2012 — Comment

Written by Grattan Puxon

Below we reproduce an open letter to Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, from Grattan Puxon of the Dale Farm Housing Association.

Dear Mr Ball,

You have announced that further action will be taken shortly against families on the Dale Farm estate, especially those now compelled to live in caravans on Oak Lane following your destruction of their homes.

You have ensured that no-one can return to their former homes by ordering the digging up of properties, and the five connecting roads on the estate, and erection of mounds of debris. This act we consider illegal and calls into question the squandering of £10 million of public money without any solution in sight.

We are told by the Environmental Agency that through these extreme measures you have exposed dangerous levels of toxic waste.

After all this hurt that you have unnecessarily visited upon the community, you now claim to be willing – as you are duty bound – to consider the welfare of our families and their children.

A request has been made that to this end, everyone should participate in the filling out of a lengthy questionnaire in order that you should have all the information you require so that the full Council and its officers can consider welfare issues before deciding upon which path of action should be adopted.

You have crippled this community. You have torn down our Community Centre and Chapel and you are now asking us to put together for you information that has largely been in your hands for the past seven or eight years. We have filled in requests for re-accommodation, clearly stating the need for land (not council housing), and we have ensured that information has been available to you on the health of residents, many of whom are suffering serious illness – which has only became worse since the clearance of October 2011.

While you pretend to pay ‘due attention’ to welfare, your every statement and action only underlines your long pursued policy of exclusion. First targets were the Romani families and their properties at Hovefields – easier to clear away as fewer in number. Then you came for the Travellers at Dale Farm.

But if you have another face, a face of compassion this is the time to show it. We ask that you:

a) Agree to a meeting at which the question of welfare information be discussed;

b) That the full Council be addressed by Dale Farm representatives;

c) That no one be pressured to leave Oak Lane until secure accommodation (mobile-home parks) are available.

As to fulfillment of the last, we urge that you award planning permission for the development at Gardners Lane South submitted by the Irish Traveller Movement as a first step.

Yours sincerely

Grattan Puxon

Secretary, Dale Farm Housing Association

RELATED LINKS

Read an IRR News story – ‘Middle England’s last stand’

Read an IRR News story – ‘Playing the Gypsy ‘race card”

Read an IRR News story – ‘Notes on the new Conservative Traveller policy’

Watch a film – ‘The battle for the Meriden green belt’

Traveller Solidarity Network

Irish Traveller Movement in Britain

National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups

 

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Comments

November 5, 2012
gerry oates:

Council of Europe has long observed the events at Dale Farm and the Human righta Commissioner,Thomas Hammaberg,frequently expressed his concerns in public and in correspondence with Eric Pickles that the UK was not observing its obligations under the United Nations declaration to provide adequate housing for Travellers and Gypsies in Basildon Essex.
Without stability the next generation cannot acquire proper health care or the chance to go to school and do not enjoy a safe environment which they had before the eviction.
The eviction over, there followed the wholesale despoiling of the site by contractors working for the Council who explained that they were told to make the place uninhabitable an act of mindless vandalism which seriously affects the health of adults and children alike.

January 27, 2016
George Wright:

In the field of human rights in general, and those of gypsies in particular, Gratton Puxon is a true hero, who merits much more recognition.

I met him only once, while spending a very memorable sunny day at a gypsy camp outside Wolverhampton ( for the only time in my life) in late summer 1975 – I think. There had been a number of recent evictions in the Midlands – and worse was expected.
I’d been invited there by a friend, Reg Hearne, a courageous hippie physicist from Sheffield University, who ran a small TV repair shop, Quantum Electronics, in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, and was a regular volunteer for the local Gypsy Liason Council.

Expecting the council to arrive with bulldozers, we waited all day until, to my surprise, Gratton Puxon arrived in the late afternoon. To forestall further action from the authorities, he immediately persuaded a group of the camp residents to address a Wolverhampton Council meeting that had been called that same evening to discuss the gypsy camp. Gratton Puxon obviously knew how to get things done, with the minimum of fuss.

I was deeply impressed when one gypsy, a tall man in a smart grey suit, made a fine speech in front of the entire council – especially considering he’d obviously never spoken in public before.
As a result, the eviction was called off.

During the day,while we were waiting, Reg Hearne and I visited several caravans, and I was spellbound both by the people, and by their spacious, spotless caravan interiors – lined with decorative plates, photos and other momentos from their travels. It was a real taste of gypsy magic for me – and the effect was certainly a moving one – I was to spend years moving from squat to squat in London, and from school to school, supply teaching in Birmingham; before eventually emigrating to Italy in 1989.I often recalled listening to a hit record in 1964 – Cast Your Fate to the Wind”.
Even in Italy I was fated not to stay anywhere for more than two years before I met my Italian wife in 2005, and settled down for the first time for nearly 40 years.
I often look back on that memorable meeting in Wolverhampton, when, thanks to Gratton Puxon, a group of unlettered working people had successfully, and with much dignity, spoken truth to power.

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