Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dale Farm: a tale of blighted lives for the evicted traveller families | This is Essex

Dale Farm: a tale of blighted lives for the evicted traveller families

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Thursday, January 26, 2012
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Billericay Gazette

THE winter air at Dale Farm hangs thick with the smell of rotting rubbish, sewage and urine.

The plots where caravans once stood have been left as craters and are beginning to fill with rainwater.

Three young girls frolic among the mounds of earth. Their childish, playful voices are incongruous in an abject landscape.

Only two smashed-up caravans give any indication as to what went before.

Mattresses, sofas and bags of rubbish are now strewn across the main road. Travellers claim fly-tippers come during the night to dump rubbish.

A van has been parked across the road to block their path.

"If you have a problem, solve it, don't make it worse," said John Flynn. The 52-year-old used to live at Dale Farm, but has since moved elsewhere, although he declined to say where.

It is the first time he has been back to the site since the eviction on October 19 and it is a sobering view.

"The council could have made things better, but no, they had to demonise us," he said, overlooking a crater filled with water.

"The council has condemned another ten generations of kids to a life without education. This was a lovely community. We were just starting to interact with people in the local area.

"If we are always kept apart from the local community things will never get better.

"The only way out of this is education. People say the children go to school only three or four times a week, but that's better than nothing."

Along with fly-tipping, another problem to have emerged is the lack of sanitation.

The 400 travellers who once lived on Dale Farm have moved onto Oak Lane, the adjacent legal pitches, and the road. Their numbers have visibly swelled.

The population increase is set against a fall in toilet and washing facilities. Toilets are limited to a handful on the legal pitches.

There is an overriding smell of urine around the legal site that induces a vomiting sensation.

Travellers admit they are forced to urinate in the road while also claiming that many children have been taken to hospital with stomach bugs and diarrhoea since the eviction.

Mary Sheridan is preparing food for her ten-month old baby daughter in her caravan on one of the legal plots.

"Everyone's lives are just hell," she said.

"At least two kids from every family have been sick because of the sewage and the germs."

Of far greater concern to travellers is how Dale Farm has been left. The craters dug following the eviction are beginning to fill with rainwater and children still play in between the mounds of earth.

"They've left it in a complete mess. The kids push each other about and one of them is going to fall in and end up drowning," said Mary.

"We're just asking for normal lives. It is a horrible situation when you can't live where you want to."

The prospect of facing yet another eviction looms large on the horizon and brings with it all too familiar rhetoric from the mum of four.

"If we move from here, where do we go? If we go to Southend they will move us, if we go to Chelmsford they will move us.

"We are human people with children. We are not aliens," she said.

Her sentiments are echoed by Breda Sheridan. The 39-year-old lives in her caravan along the side of the road.

"There is no way of describing our lives," she said. "The council had us once, we are not going to do it again. Let the bailiffs come, we don't care."