We always knew that gypsies lived around us, but it was only recently that we have become more aware of their culture. Firstly with the hit television show, ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ and at present, the controversy surrounding a High Court battle to evict them from a land in Basildon, Essex.
The gypsy community have finally lost their war against Basildon Council to stay residing on the six acre site at Dale Farm. The Council have been trying to evict the community, which has today amassed to around 400 individuals since 2001.
The gypsies now have the choice to leave willingly or they can be forced to leave, as Judge Ouseley stated: “It is the residents of Dale Farm who have to comply with the obligation to leave voluntarily. If the removal becomes forcible it would be because of decisions made by the residents not to comply.”
There are around 18,000 traveller and gypsy caravans in England. Out of those, around 80 per cent reside on authorised sites, but around 3,600 are on illegal sites. It can be quite a costly process for local councils to evict travellers when things get messy. The bill to evict the gypsies from Dale Farm currently stands at £18 million. So what can the Government do to stop gypsies from residing on illegal sites?
‘The planning for Traveller sites’ which was published by the Government in April of this year expressed: “It is clear that [we] will not tolerate abuse of the planning system by a small minority of Travellers who set up unauthorised developments which create tension, undermine community cohesion and create resentment against the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Travellers who do not live on unauthorised sites.”
But with all the current Government cuts affecting the public sector, what would happen if a gypsy community set-up homes on an illegal site and the local council just didn’t have any budget to carry out an eviction process? Are the police too powerless to help? Would the gypsy community just be allowed to stay on the site without being disturbed? Furthermore, if word got out to other traveller communities, would we see more illegal sites popping up all over the country?