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Friday, September 30, 2016
Essex: chapel, community centre opened at beleaguered Gypsy camp
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 A small community centre and chapel was officially opened at Dale Farm Traveller and Gypsy camp near Crays Hill in Essex on Saturday. The log cabin, which has been named after St Christopher, one of the patron saints of travelling people, will be used for community meetings, health projects, IT and literacy for children and a chapel for the site's Catholics. It was built with a £9,894 government youth grant fund from the Equality Council.

The building was blessed by Father John Glynn of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Wickford. There were also speeches by Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury, Clive Mardner, director of the Equality Council, who sponsored the project, and site spokesman Richard Sheridan, Gypsy Council president.

The opening of the community centre has aroused controversy locally, and a hostile campaign in the Daily Mail. While the Gypsies and Travellers have bought the agricultural land at Dale Farm, and lived there for many years, Secretary of State Ruth Kelly has upheld Basildon's decision to evict the community.

This Friday (9 May) Judge Collins is to issue his long delayed ruling in the judicial review in the British High Court into Basildon's policy towards some two hundred "illegal" families which it refuses to accommodate. Eviction specialists Constant & Co., whose bailiffs have been accused of 'wanton destruction,' including the burning and looting of caravans during removal operations, are already believed to be planning to bid for the £2 million demolition of the Dale Farm township.

Lord Avebury said: "The bulldozing of Dale Farm would be a disaster." Richard Sheridan said: "If we are evicted it will be a traumatic experience for all the families who have nowhere to go." Billericay MP John Baron has urged the National Lottery to stop funding the equality council because he claims it is "biased to travellers". Essex Racial Equality Council, which sponsored the centre, has been threatened with a cut off of funding by Lord Haddingfield. His opposite number on Basildon council, Malcolm Buckley, has already ended ties with racial equality workers whom he accuses of a bias in favour of Gypsies. Their leader, Clive Marden, said at the ceremony that he did not care what Tory MP John Baron said, he was proud to be involved with the Dale Farm project, which was going to benefit so many children and young people. "I'm happy to take the flak," Marden commented. Next week, the Bishop of Brentwood, the Bishop of Chelmsford, and other Catholic and Church of England clergy will be paying their own visit to Saint Christopher's.

Source: Roma News Service
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Tags: Dale Farm


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