PM backs plan to evict travellers
Prime Minister David Cameron has given his support to plans to evict travellers from the UK's largest illegal settlement, as barricades at the site reportedly prevented some residents from leaving.
Hundreds of people illegally living at Dale Farm in Essex face being forcibly evicted from their homes on September 19.
Basildon council will begin clearing the site after a decade-long dispute over unauthorised properties on the former scrapyard.
Conservative MP John Baron, who represents Basildon and Billericay, asked Mr Cameron for his support during Prime Minister's questions. He said: "Will the Prime Minister join me in sending a very clear message to the travellers at the illegal Dale Farm site?
"We all hope they move off peacefully in order to avoid a forced eviction, but if not, be in no doubt the Government fully supports Basildon council and Essex Police in reclaiming this green belt land on behalf of the law-abiding majority."
Mr Cameron replied: "I certainly give my support to the Essex Police and to all the county and district councils that have been involved, and I pay tribute to the honourable member for the very hard work he's put in on this issue."
This came amid reports that some residents had tried to leave the site but had been prevented by barricades put in place by protesters supporting the travellers.
One of those supporters, who would only be named as Jenny, said: "There are lots of individual residents with individual plans. There were some people who wanted to get a particular vehicle out, and the residents asked us not to move the barricade. It's up to the residents."
She said that most of the people living at Dale Farm plan to stay until eviction day. "The message we've been getting is that pretty much everyone is going to stay. There's maybe some people who have changed their minds, but most haven't got anywhere else to go."
Leader of Basildon Council Tony Ball called on the demonstrators to allow people to leave freely, saying: "It is ironic that a traveller who wants to leave Dale Farm now appears to have been effectively imprisoned by those who claim to be defending the residents."