England

Dale Farm: Watching and waiting

Bailiffs at Dale Farm
Image caption Bailiffs made their first approach into the site at mid-afternoon on Monday

It has taken 10 years to get to this day at Dale Farm - and it took most of the day for the bailiffs to finally approach the entrance to the illegal travellers site.

And it was later still that the final twist came that changed everything again.

The latest, major developments in the decade-long battle between Basildon Council and travellers who made the site in Essex their home made for a tense morning.

Bailiffs had been expected to approach the travellers from 08:00 BST. But that did not happen, due to negotiation with a number of families in a final bid to get some of them to leave peacefully.

It was calm but tense. Helicopters hovering close to the ground added anxiety, as did a sign that read "Danger of Death. Behind this gate a woman is attached by her neck, if you attempt to open this gate you will kill her".

As the day wore on, more of a carnival spirit spread across the site, with travellers from the illegal and legal sites answering across the lines.

Music played and people shouted playfully at the press.

Hundreds of people from media organisations had gathered both at the site entrance and the press compound and the travellers watched us as we watched them.

With law on their side bailiffs, acting for the council, finally went in to Dale Farm at about 15:00 BST.

They read health and safety regulations out to them and politely asked them to leave.

Jeers and taunts

However those who intended to leave had already done so over the past week and the bailiffs, about 20 of them in blue tabards and hard hats, supported by about the same number of police officers, were met with resistance.

Image caption Basildon Council leader Tony Ball faced the world's media

Gratton Puxon from the Dale Farm Residents Association had said earlier: "We are not saying it will be peaceful, we may scream and shout, but we will not be violent.

"We can compose ourselves, we have not run our course yet, it is just the start of the road."

Noisy they were and the bailiffs were subjected to jeers, shouting and taunts as they left the site. One enforcement officer had hot tea thrown in his face.

But they regrouped and just when they were about to go back to the camp at 17:00 BST to ask the travellers to leave for a second time, news spread of a private injunction granted this afternoon preventing Basildon Council removing structures from the site.

It appeared to take the council by complete surprise. After an emergency meeting, Conservative council leader Tony Ball said he and his colleagues were "extremely disappointed and frustrated".

But he added: "I am absolutely sure when they hear our side the judge will rule in our favour."

'Great relief'

In contrast, jubilation came from the travellers when they heard the news.

There were cheers and cries of "We have won".

Mr Puxon, now chained to a fence, said: "This news is a great relief. But we will stay here to guard our metal so it isn't taken away.

"We are doing it for our children and grandchildren. It's been a rollercoaster but a three night reprieve is a relief."

The travellers will stay put until the bailiffs return, until then the waiting and the watching will continue.

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