Pogróm is a word with Yiddish origin, and is a Russian word meaning “to wreak havoc, to demolish violently, to destroy, or to devastate a town."
Eric Pickles, British Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is planning to demolish, destroy, and devastate half of Dale Farm, on Oak Lane, Crays Hill, near Billericay. Situated to the North of the now established "plotlands" around the post-war New Town of Basildon in Essex, Dale Farm is home to around 1000 people. It is not a farm. It is a 5 hectare former scrapyard off the A127, outside the M25, owned by the Gypsies and Travellers themselves. They have built their own chalet homes in around 100 plots, large enough to include caravan pitches for their families and friends. The problem they have is that the Local Authority has changed it's attitude to letting Gypsies and Travellers stay to make something of this redundant Brownfield site. Today the Local Authority is mostly against the residents of Dale Farm. But it was not always so in this part of Essex with a long history of "plotlands".
In the 1960s there were fewer than 10 plots on Oak Lane. Over time the Local Authority, Basildon Council, granted planning permission for around 40 additional plots. Then attitudes hardened in 2000. The Local Authority decided that the Dale Farm plots could not be added to, and that having allowed earlier building on the scrapyard was a mistake. Residents faced opposition to new building on their own land, and the 50 or so homes that were built in the twenty-first century were never going to be granted planning permission by the Local Authority that now wished none of them were there. Half the homes are legal. The other half have had to be built on land the residents legally own, but which the Local Authority now sees as "Green Belt". The Gypsies and Travellers face a Local Authority that, despite Basildon's history of "plotlands", has nastily turned against them.
For more information see http://dalefarm.wordpress.com
On Google Earth look for the rectangle of family housing built in poor quality Green Belt land at Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Crays Hill, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2YJ. The Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers have shown how people can meet their own housing needs, if only the Local Authority will give them planning permission. Now Basildon Council is planning to spend £8.0 million in demolishing their homes, plus the cost of policing the action. The Daily Mail claimed that Essex Police has asked the Home Office for £10.0 million to cover that policing cost. (1) What kind of crazy planning tyranny is it when people - just like you and I - are prevented from planning and building a field of family houses for themselves?
Faced with a challenge to 1947 legislation the planning system is acting desperately in forcing the demolition of the Dale Farm homes. The Coalition government has pledged up to £1.2 million to help Basildon Council clear the Gypsies and Travellers away. (2) Basildon Council had asked the department for Communities and Local Government for £3.0 million to help fund an eviction. (3) It's not the money, but the bigger principle that bothers Eric Pickles, who is now going further. He promises that the CLG will be consulting on new planning guidelines intended to strengthen the hand of Local Authorities in dealing with "unauthorised developments". Dale Farm may be unauthorised, but it is the Local Authority, the CLG, and ultimately Eric Pickles as Secretary of State, who refuse to grant planning approval. If planning approval was likely this conflict would not exist, and 1000 people would be left in peace.
Pickles is determined to clear the Gypsies and Travellers away. He told the Evening Standard that '... we are giving councils the power and discretion to protect the environment and help rebuild community relations'. (2) What he means, of course, is that he sees no place in the local community for Gypsies and Travellers. He is blaming them for any strained local relationships when all they want is to be left alone. He appeals to green ideologues, when the Green Belt that engulfs Dale Farm is waste land. James Heartfield made that point on Spiked! in 2009, when the Dale Farm residents were, once again, unable to overcome the planning legal system. The Dale Farm residents face eco-elitism:
'The law that the Basildon Council is upholding is the law that protects the so-called "Green Belt", which is supposed to stop our towns and cities from sprawling over the unspoilt countryside. Sheridan and his fellow travellers have not taken anyone else’s land; they have built their own homes on their own land. But they are being punished because they have sinned against the sacred cow that is the English Countryside.' (4)
Even Pickles will probably admit that vast swathes of the Green Belt, and particularly in Essex, is poor quality, but like New Labour before him, he will not let it be used to live in, and particularly not by working people. He sees an opportunity to get the "law abiding" working people of Basildon to turn on the hard working and independent Gypsies and Travellers for breaking the stupid planning law, and challenging the very idea of an ecology in need of his protection. So Pickles is now going deeper into the green prejudice that people are sprawling over the countryside, and need to be contained. At Dale Farm he is tapping into the prejudice amongst environmentalists that large families are a problem. Many Gypsies and Travellers like to have large families, and look after each other, but their sociable culture is evidently at odds with the anti-human idea amongst greens that population growth is threatening the planet.
The anti-human prejudice is common to environmentalists, but is being directed by Pickles as he pushes the planning system towards a legal presumption in favour of "sustainable development". Pickles is saying that Gypsies and Travellers building homes represents the unsustainable development his National Planning Policy Framework aims to stop.
Large families flouting the planning law, and building on the Green Belt in ways that government defines as unsustainable are unacceptable to Pickles. He encourages the local community to organise to move them on, and to use the police to forcibly clear their homes from their own land. Pickles plans a pogrom against Gypsies and Travellers in 2011. As even The Guardian recognised, anticipating "The Battle of Basildon", Pickles '... is fast turning his personal track record of vehement opposition to unauthorised Traveller sites into government policy'. (5)
Pogróm originally meant attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire. The first was anti-Jewish rioting in Odessa in 1821. The term "pogrom" gained common use with anti-Jewish riots across the Ukraine and southern Russia between 1881 and 1884, after Narodnaya Volya terrorists assassinated Tsar Alexander II in St. Petersburg. The "People's Will" anarchists were responsible, but the reaction to the assassination took the form of anti-semitic attacks, lootings, evictions, and expulsions. The perpetrators were organized locally, often with government and police encouragement. Between 1903 and 1906 there were further pogroms, while the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution was widely denounced as a Jewish conspiracy. The British "Khaki" General Election after the First World War returned David Lloyd George as Prime Minister in December 1918, and Winston Churchill became War Minister and Air Secretary. No strangers to anti-semitism, and fearing a spread of mutinous internationalism throughout Europe, they sent the British Expeditionary Forces to help the Tsarist "White" Russians attack the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union.
Nationalists and the Tsarist Army, backed by Expeditionary Forces from Britain, France, and the United States of America, engaged in pogroms in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Romania, and Western Russia, killing tens of thousands of Jews between 1918 and 1920. Pogroms continued in Romania to 1921. Anti-semitism went systematically with racism against Gypsies across Europe between the wars, and did not end with the massacre of the Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2 August 1944.
Eric Pickles is a socially divisive nationalist, but he is no fascist, and would probably hate to be thought of as racist. He believes he is working to protect the planet, while talking about a "Big Society" to businessmen, (6) but he really wants a sustainable Little Britain that makes a virtue out of parochial intolerance. Pickles is adept at exploiting political division. This is of course not a new dispute, nor one limited in consequence to Dale Farm. Much depends on the outcome. The residents were ordered to leave in February 2007 when Ruth Kelly was running the CLG, but they appealed against the decision. (7) The Dale Farm case has gone on since 2001. The leader of Basildon Council Tony Ball insists that '... wrong is wrong and there can't be one rule for one group, and one for another. The law of the land must be upheld'. (8) He knows that the planning law stops everyone from building on their own land unless the Local Authority accepts their design. Ball knows that if the Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers are not made an example of, then there are plenty of other people around Basildon, Essex, and Britain who would like to build on their own land. Councillors like him would no longer have the power of refusal and demolition that Eric Pickles expects to be exercised on behalf of national government. Ball can't imagine a planning system based on pursuasion rather than a universal denial of development rights:
'Look at the alternatives. If a council turns a blind eye to law-breaking what moral right do we have to enforce against anybody else who breaches planning laws? Green belt is there for a reason. It is to stop urban sprawl'. (9)
If the Dale Farm residents win, the denial of the Right to Build can be challenged by many more people around Britain than there are Gypsies and Travellers. Planners would need to win support for something positive to be built by freeholders, having lost the power to say "No".
Basildon Council Leader Tony Ball defended the eviction plan on 15 March 2011 in a television interview, posted on www.bbc.co.uk.
Ball no doubt wants the Dale Farm residents to move on. He seems willing to allow at least a limited window of opportunity for residents to find alternative locations. (10) Yet Ball also appears utterly insensitive to the fact that the Dale Farm residents want the freedom of choice to stay on their own land, at Oak Lane, Crays Hill. Until Secretary of State Pickles intervened it seemed that the 28-day notice of eviction might not be delivered to residents quickly. However Pickles is publicly recommending that all Local Authorities watch for movements of Gypsies and Travellers over the Spring holiday. Rosa Prince, writing for The Telegraph, was not slow to repeat the pre-holiday alarm from Pickles, when she screamed:
'Travellers have been known in the past to take advantage of bank holidays to launch “land grabs,” setting up home on land which they do not have authorisation to camp on, and applying for retrospective planning permission once the council offices reopen... Councils are also being allowed to resist retrospective planning applications submitted by gipsies and other home builders, and give more rights to enforce removal notice against those who act illegally'. (11)
This eco-anxiety is getting to the truth of the matter. Pickles is blaming Gypsies and Travellers for their independence, but is really worried about "other home builders" who might break the planning law on their own land. 'It’s time for fair play in the planning system', he said, '... standing up for those who play by the rules and tougher action for those who abuse and play the system'. (12) Gypsies and Travellers know the planning system is not fair. It is stacked against them, and if they try to do anything to solve their own housing predicament the planning system will be used by "the wider community" to demolish, destroy, and devastate their homes. Locals who are not Gypsies and Travellers are asking "Why don’t we all start building extra houses, if they can get away with it?" As James Heartfield has observed, '... people usually mean it rhetorically. But actually, it is the right question, just put the wrong way around'. (4) If many more people broke the planning law, and argued to be free to build on their own land as a point of principle, Britain would not have a housing shortage. If Pickles persisted with evictions he would be exposed for his intolerance of Gypsies and Travellers, which in this impending pogrom is hard not to see as an expression of racism.
It seems clear that eco-elitism can very easily slip into racism, and the ambition of "Localism" seems reduced to mobilising parochial hatreds.
Talking up "Localism", Pickles told the Conservative Home blog readers that '... it’s up to you. Be as ambitious as you can. Be as radical as you like. Be as bold as you want. I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way'. (13) Pickles doesn't mean Gypsies and Travellers. He will do more than stand in their way, and is whipping up racism against Gypsies and Travellers. Not everyone in Basildon will support what he is doing, but the problem is that locally, and nationally, the disparate working people who support the Gypsies and Travellers are not yet sufficiently organised to effectively stop Pickles. That need not remain a political weakness.
Pickles will obstruct everyone challenging the 1947 planning law, but he will be viscious against Gypsies and Travellers. He wants "the wider community" to be involved in discussions in determining the number of traveller sites to be provided. (11) Gypsies and Travellers should be free to live on their own land without this sort of government backed locally perpetrated "community" discipline. Don't be fooled by all the talk from this Coalition about "Big Society" or ending the "dependency culture".
The Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers are clearly being singled out for having the strength to demonstrate their desire for independence. In fact it is Pickles and his burdensome planning law that wants to keep them in a state of dependency. As James Heartfield argued in 2008, we should all applaud and follow the example of Britain's Gypsies and Travellers:
More urgently, the Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers need to be defended against the destructive and socially divisive pogrom that Eric Pickles is planning. These family chalet homes should not be demolished. 'We're not wanted anywhere. We're not wanted in the countryside. We're not wanted in the town', Candy Sheridan told The Guardian. An Irish Traveller, and Vice Chair of the Gypsy Council 2010, founded in 1966, she is busy trying to help others through the planning system. 'Councillors don't want to see us', but '... we are part of the countryside and we have been for 600 years. We have more right to be there than they do'. (14) There is plenty of space for everyone in the 90 per cent of Britain that is not built on.
Britain should be pushing for a universal freedom to build, not forced demolitions, targeted against the few. Don't be fooled by the awesome mendacity of Eric Pickles. He's got it in for Gypsies and Travellers, and they threaten his planning system. For Pickles this is a long run battle.
The awesome mendacity of Eric Pickles 31.03.2011
Every planning initiative from this government and from the last one is in tatters. Pickles has no plan to build housing, only punish Gypsies and Travellers who refuse to wait around for the planning system to allow house building. They won't go easily, and they should be supported. (15)
The CLG looks to be about to demolish more homes built by Gypsies and Travellers than they have managed to deliver through the entire failed Eco-Towns programme. The CLG should be ashamed of their record, and of what Pickles is doing in the name of the planning system.
Zero Eco-Towns 28.03.2011
Grattan Puxon representing the Dale Farm Residents Association wrote an open letter to Pickles on the http://lolodiklo.blogspot.com, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the history, culture and true lives of Romani people. Puxon told Pickles that '... forced eviction is always an ugly action but when it’s being taken against ninety families of one community and those families belong to a ethnic minority, then there must be cause for concern, alarm and shame'. (16) But Pickles is shameless. He says he is acting for the environment and the community of Basildon. In reality he is acting on his own prejudices from within a Coalition government sustained in power by Liberal Democrats.
It is time to stand in the way of Eric Pickles as he plans a pogrom in 2011
Ian Abley, Project Manager for audacity, an experienced site Architect, and a Research Engineer at the Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Engineering, Loughborough University. He is co-author of Why is construction so backward? (2004) and co-editor of Manmade Modular Megastructures. (2006) He is planning 250 new British towns.
1. 'Essex travellers facing eviction threaten Big Fat Gypsy War on the authorities', 13 March 2011, Daily Mail, posted on www.dailymail.co.uk
2. 'Travellers face bank holiday crackdown', 13 April 2011, Evening Standard
3. 'Not evicting gypsies will set "very bad precedent" ', 10 March 2011, This is Total Essex, Essex Chronicle
4. James Heartfield, 'Dale Farm rebellion against eco-elitism', 26 January 2009, Spiked Online, posted here
5. Patrick Barkham, 'Dale Farm Travellers eviction: the battle of Basildon', 25 March 2011, The Guardian
6. Eric Pickles, speech to the 'Home Builders Federation "One Year On" Conference', London, 31 March 2011
7. Andrew Levy, 'Travellers build a £12,000 hall at illegal camp - with taxpayers' cash, and without planning permission', 1 May 2008, Daily Mail
8. Joshua Farrington, 'Basildon: Council votes for eviction despite travellers' protests', 16 March 2011, This is Total Essex, Essex Chronicle
9. Tony Ball, quoted by Patrick Barkham, 'Dale Farm Travellers eviction: the battle of Basildon', 25 March 2011, The Guardian
10. 'Basildon Council votes to evict Dale Farm', 16 March 2011, Travellers' Times
11. Rosa Prince, 'Eric Pickles: gipsies could take advantage of Royal Wedding bank holiday to set up illegal camps', 13 April 2011, The Telegraph
12. Eric Pickles, quoted by Rosa Prince, 'Eric Pickles: gipsies could take advantage of Royal Wedding bank holiday to set up illegal camps', 13 April 2011, The Telegraph
13. Eric Pickles, 'It’s the local economy, stupid', 30 July 2010, Conservative Home Blog
14. Candy Sheridan, quoted by Patrick Barkham, 'Dale Farm Travellers eviction: the battle of Basildon', 25 March 2011, The Guardian
15. Rachel Stevenson, 'Dale Farm Travellers: 'We won't just get up and leave', 27 July 2010, The Guardian
16. Grattan Puxon, open letter to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, 'UN calls for halt to UK Gypsy Evictions', 22 July 2010, Lolo Diklo