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The only place is Essex

September 19, 2011

It seems to me that the humble home county of Essex is never out of the spotlight lately. If only for all the wrong reasons.

According to many of the live major news networks, it’s ‘live eviction day’ on the 10-year-established traveller site, Dale Farm. The media circus around the removal of around 1,000 travellers living on the Basildon site has all the hallmarks of a Big Brother style extravaganza.

All we need to complete the showdown is Davina McCall swinging in on the scaffolding to meet the bailiffs. Since early this morning the Sky News correspondents have been eagerly poised at their mikes and news helicopters have been circling the site to be the first to report a punch-up or some action from the riot-trained cops waiting in the wings.

Since Channel Four sympathetically portrayed the lives of Irish travellers in the series, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, it seems that their alternative lifestyles have been the subject of a media fascination. With the reality TV images of Barbie doll brides, the flashy top of the range Audis and the raucous horse auctions it’s little wonder that those involved are seeing this as more than a planning department wrangle but an eviction with ‘ethnic’ motives.

A few days ago, I was flicking through the Essex Chronicle planning applications page in the hairdressers. I very nearly missed a tiny news report stating that travellers occupying a local site called the Roman Triangle have applied to extend their planning permission. Something most travellers at Dale Farm don’t have.

This slice of land wedged between the A12 a slip road is just a stone’s throw from our home.

The temporary planning permission for Roman Triangle was granted five years ago and the travellers have applied for permanent pitches when this expires. Brentwood Borough Council originally justified the temporary move to ensure that ‘unauthorised’ sites did not crop up elsewhere.

In five years of living in Essex, we haven’t heard a peep from the pristine, manicured mobile homes behind the iron gates at the Roman Triangle. They are certainly more considerate neighbours than some of our own and property prices in the village of Mountnessing are as stable as anywhere else in our part of semi-rural Essex.

With employment commitments and lack of legal sites, it’s understandable that travellers may no longer be able to sustain a nomadic lifestyle. Maybe this is a role model for Dale Farm.

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