In October 2011, a clearance order was executed at Dale Farm after ten years of legal contention.To give contracted bailiffs safe access, some residents and activists had to be removed by police from the Dale Farm site – this action gained international press coverage.At its height, Dale Farm, along with the adjacent Oak Lane site, housed over 1,000 people, the largest Traveller concentration in the UK.
Dale Farm has been subject to Green Belt controls since 1982.
Next to the Dale Farm site there is an authorised Travellers' site known as Oak Lane.
This has Council planning permission, and provides 34 legal pitches.
As a site for Travellers, Dale Farm was started in the 1980s when a planning appeal was won by two families against Basildon District Council on the southern end of the site, with the help of a professor of land management, Robert Home. Home stated that "I was first involved when two Gypsy families wanted planning permission for single family plots down Oak Road and we fought it against Basildon Council and we were successful...
However, no such progress has been made, and the local authority has now received a homelessness application for the 400 people who claim that eviction from the site will leave them homeless.
At the same time, opposition amongst parts of the settled community towards site residents has become ever fiercer, with parents from the settled community withdrawing their children from the school attended by children from Dale Farm, and the view regularly expressed in letters to the local press that Gypsies and Travellers living on the site are somehow 'above the law'.
The site continued to expand and the Travellers residing there applied for a judicial review of the eviction decision.
Basildon Council's Development Control Committee minutes state that: "In June 2005, once the two-year compliance period had lapsed, the Council resolved that direct action was necessary to secure compliance with the notices.
there were houses down this part of Crays Hill that were actually in the greenbelt, small rural businesses here, then the Gypsy caravans came in.
But there had always been Gypsy caravans in and around Basildon." He also claimed that although it was in the greenbelt, even 30 years ago the area was described as mixed use.
Subsequently, the council ceded permission to 40 families before deciding against granting further permissions as other parts of the site were occupied.