Travellers' heritage bid rejected
An application to gain official protection status for a scaffold gateway to the UK's largest illegal travellers' site has been refused.
Heritage Minister John Penrose said he had accepted the advice of English Heritage and decided not to list the structure at Dale Farm, near Basildon, Essex.
He said: "Although clearly a structure which is significant for the travellers at Dale Farm, the tubular steel, wood and rubber construction holds no special architectural or historic interest and does not therefore meet the criteria for listing."
A source close to the minister added: "The listing process is designed to help protect the finest examples of our built heritage, not to be a thorn in the side of a democratic and civilised society. The truth is, hell will freeze over before the Dale Farm barricades meet such criteria."
Travellers and supporters at Dale Farm have adorned the gateway with posters and banners. In their application they argued it has become an "emblem of the struggle for travellers' rights". The structure has been in place at the former scrapyard for five years and acts as part of the defence against bailiffs, a Dale Farm Solidarity spokesman said.
Resident Kathleen McCarthy said: "The tower is all that stands between ourselves and the bailiffs. As long as it remains standing, we know that there are people outside our community who still care about our rights."
Earlier, Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said the application threatened to "make a mockery" of planning laws.
He said: "If travellers or their supporters think that the scaffold barricade at Dale Farm can contribute to the rich heritage of the Basildon area then they are within their rights to apply to English Heritage to consider their application.
"Considering Dale Farm is in breach of planning regulations and with the ongoing health and safety concerns regarding the barricade, this is clearly another attempt to make a mockery of the planning process and laws of the land that apply to everyone."
The clearance of Dale Farm was due to begin last week but an injunction preventing bailiffs moving in is in place while legal appeals are heard at the High Court. The planned clearance follows a decade-long row over 51 unauthorised pitches on the six-acre travellers' site.