The eerie 'ghost traveller site' left nine years on from multi-million pound Dale Farm eviction
NATURE has almost reclaimed the site of the former Dale Farm traveller site nine years on from the multi-million pound eviction that made international headlines.
These striking images from a new Channel 5 documentary being screened tomorrow show the "ghost traveller site" that has been left behind with the fencing around individual caravan plots still visible and a rusting solitary lorry back.
NATURE: An abandoned van with traveller pitches that have been reclaimed by nature (Channel 5)
'Gypsy Eviction: The Battle For Dale Farm', which airs on Sunday at 9pm, looks back at the £7million eviction and interviews several of the key players including two of the travellers, Grattan Puxon, who campaigned on their behalf, villager Len Gridley, who campaigned against the site, former council leader Tony Ball, and Bryan Lecoche, who was the head bailiff of firm Constant & Co, which carried out the operation.
REVELATION: Michael Slattery said 30 evicted families were still living on the legal site (Channel 5)
Traveller Michael Slattery, 72, reveals in the programme that about 30 of the around 86 families, who were forced out by the eviction, are still living on the neighbouring legal site, which has planning permission, casting doubt on these families longstanding claims that they would have nowhere to go if moved from Dale Farm.
He said: "It's our land, we paid for it. I'm living on the front half now. They spent all that money to get about 30 families down the front."
OCCUPIED: The legal half of the site, which was half empty before eviction, now occupied (Channel 5)
From 2006, in the years before the eviction, Essex News and Investigations editor Jon Austin revealed in the Basildon Echo newspaper, how much of the legal site had been left empty for several years and that many of the pitches were under common ownership to those at Dale Farm.
He also revealed that some of the travellers at Dale Farm, who claimed to have nowhere else to go, had been tenants at council homes in Wolverhampton, had pitches at the Smithy Fen traveller site at Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, or were linked to houses in the town of Rathkeale in the republic of Ireland, where the clan originated from.
DEDICATED: Grattan Puxon has campaigned for travellers since his 20s (Channel 5)
In the documentary Grattan Puxon, a non-traveller aged in his 70s, who has spent his life campaigning for their rights, said that the travellers spent £20K on scaffolding put up to try to stop the eviction and used 15 miles of barbed wire around it.
Mr Lecoche, 70, described the bailiff's task as a "military operation" the like of which will never be seen again.
The council always said it would restore Dale Farm to a green belt area following the eviction, but none years on it is just waste ground. The council has also failed to get back any of the £4million the travellers collectively owe them for clearing them off.
Although, it has registered charges against the land in the event of it being sold, so it could recoup some of the money.
SHELL: The gutted wreck of the Dale Farm cottage owned by former spokesman Patrick Egan (Channel 5)
The home of former site spokesman Patrick Egan, 55, can be seen as a burnt out shell in the documentary, even though it had planning permission.
Sources have told Essex News and Investigations that other travellers burnt it down after he refused to sell the land to them.
The documentary ends looking to the future of the site.
A developer has expressed interest in building 500 homes there, when the council refused any development on grounds of it being in the green belt.
DEVELOPMENT: Len Gridley would be happy with 500 homes but not traveller site at end of garden (Channel 5)
Former council leader Tony Ball, who spearheaded the eviction, admitted that he had had some sympathy for the families at the time of the operation, but it had to go ahead because of planning laws.
He does not believe housing should be allowed after the council used the green belt argument for refusing the site.
However, the council has left the door open for development by allocating the site in what it describes as reserve land for development.
Mr Gridley, 61, said he would prefer to see a housing development at the end of his garden to the "eyesore" he has been left with.
Mr Slattery said he would be happy to get some money back for his land if developers want it, so he can "buy somewhere else" for his family, but he vowed he would never let the council have the land.
However, fellow traveller Mary Slattery, 66, said: "How can you build houses on green belt land. That wouldn't be fair would it? Building up the lovely green scenery and building houses there."