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Essex Bishops stand by travellers

by Ed Beavan

THE Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, believes that the planned eviction of travellers from a farm near Basildon will create “havoc and chaos” for the 90 families involved.

Bishop Cottrell and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Revd Thomas McMahon, visited the site at Dale Farm, in Crays Hill, on Tuesday. At midnight on Wednes­day, Basildon Council was due to start removing the travellers who have built illegally on part of the site.

Bishop Cottrell called for a reprieve for members of the “beleaguered community” on the former scrapyard. “By the letter of the law they shouldn’t have built there, but there are pregnant women, elderly people, and frightened children who will be moved on.

“What would be decent and humane would be to find a permanent solution, but they have nowhere to go. Common sense would be for the council to authorise the site.”

The Bishop said: “They do want to make a settled and established home there, and many of the children attend the local primary school. If they are moved on, it hasn’t solved anything. It will create havoc and chaos for them, wherever they end up.”

The Vicar of Great Burstead, the Revd Stanley Swift, in whose parish the site falls, said on Wedneday that the situation was “desper­ate”. “The people there feel very stressed and threatened. They are good Christian people and have good family values. There have been rights and wrongs on both sides, but I think it’s inexcusable for the council to do this.”

Basildon Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government have maintained that the evictions are legal.

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In tomorrow's Church Times: the debate on British values, our interview with @realaled, & how to approach the Peace: https://t.co/hq1rTsf9Rh

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RT @CottrellStephenWith some faithful friends in Forest Gate last night https://t.co/799oggJ2L0