Essex

Dale Farm travellers in Essex set for eviction fight

We won't go sign
Image caption The travellers' message in the face of eviction is clearly visible at the Dale Farm site

Once it was nothing more than a symbolic structure marking the entrance to the illegal travellers' camp.

Now the scaffold barricade at Dale Farm in Essex has been reinforced.

A watchtower stands on its top layer, and an extra pair of gates has been installed.

The travellers camping on the six-acre site near Basildon without planning permission always said they would defy the council eviction notice to leave.

And as the hours tick by to the deadline to move out at midnight on Wednesday, there is no apparent sign of anyone packing up.

At her pretty and immaculately-kept mobile home, Mary-Ann McCarthy plays court to a celebrity - the actress Vanessa Redgrave - and the world's media.

Over the years, she has been the public face of the travellers.

Some gypsies tire of the media attention now, others want their voices heard.

Violence predicted

They argue they should be allowed to stay because they own the land. They want to stay together as a family group, and are vehemently opposed to living in conventional bricks and mortar.

At the weekend, numbers inside Dale Farm were boosted by the arrival of supporters who have set up a protest called Camp Constant.

The party atmosphere of the bank holiday visitors has gone now. A core group of activists remains, perhaps 40 at most.

Jake Fulton is one of the Camp Constant protesters who will defy the bailiffs. He thinks there will be violence, but says they will not be the ones to start it.

Outside the camp, most local residents in the village of Cray's Hill no longer want to speak publicly about living alongside hundreds of travellers. They fear reprisals.

After years of legal battles, the eviction will go ahead some time in September. But at present there is no outward sign of the massive eviction operation being co-ordinated by Basildon Council.

The council is preparing for the worse - hence the hefty £19m price tag - more than £50,000 per traveller.

It could take six weeks to secure the site and return it to a green field. But until the operation begins, the scale of any resistance will not be known.

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