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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 08:00 GMT
Eviction 'a missed opportunity'
Borough officials clear the site
The travellers protested against their eviction
A local council missed an opportunity to set a good example for treatment of travellers, according to a spokesman for a human rights group.

Terry Stewart, from the Irish Human Rights and Justice group, which supports travellers, said Chelmsford Borough Council set a poor example for other communities.

He said: "The fact that they've now issued a statement saying 'we've locked up all our gates' in the borough, as well as these people being driven onto the M25 with a police escort, illustrates to me that a lot of other boroughs will also be thinking about how they will begin to deal with these travellers."

Four people were arrested and two were injured on Monday morning when borough council officials sent in contract staff with a court order to clear the site on Cranham Road in Little Waltham.

These are people who are homeless - they deserve a little bit of human decency from other people
Terry Stewart
Irish Human Rights and Justice

Security guards patrolled the former unofficial travellers site overnight following the eviction, which was attended by police in riot gear after indications that the travellers would resist.

But Mr Stewart said: "The thing about Chelmsford Council was that it had an opportunity to give a lead in a way on how the larger community relates to travellers and the Roma.

"They have missed that opportunity.

"These are people who are homeless - they deserve a little bit of human decency from other people."

Chelmsford Borough Council had a court order demanding the travellers leave the site, after a legal battle which began in 2001.

Contractor oversees removal
Contractors were in charge of removing the caravans
Councillor Neil Gulliver, the borough's executive member for planning and transport, said: "We've set aside 100,000 to deal with this, and it may end up costing even more.

"No authority wants to do it, but ultimately you have an obligation under planning law and you have to deal with it."

He said conventional houses would not have been allowed on the agricultural site either.

An emergency housing centre was set up at the local village hall for the travellers.

They have now either moved to other sites outside Essex, or are staying in council accommodation for the homeless.


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