Travellers due to be evicted from Britain's largest illegal site will be given one week's notice before the bailiffs are sent in, the local council has said.
Basildon Council told the Huffington Post UK the operation to remove the 400 residents of Dale Farm was "not going to come in the middle of the night" and that the notice period was intended to give the traveller community a "chance to leave the site peacefully".
The move comes amid reports suggesting violence could flare at the site once the eviction takes place. A banner reading "we won't go" currently straddles the entrance to the site.
One resident told Sky News that the travellers would rather burn their homes down than let the bailiffs enter the site.
"They will burn what they have up there," she said. "They will use their homes and cars as shields and set fire to them because they're not going to let people come in."
The council said they hoped there would not be any trouble, but that if it did become violent "that's when the police can step in".
The operation to move the travellers from the site is estimated to be costing the council £8m, while the policing operation is expected to cost an extra £10m.
A 28-day notice served on residents of the settlement near the village of Cray’s Hill in Essex expired at midnight on Wednesday.
After a decade long dispute the council has been granted the authority to clear the site. On Wednesday the Dale Farm traveller community lost a last-ditch legal bid to prevent the council sending in the bailiffs.
The notice served by Basildon Council required travellers to vacate 51 unauthorised plots on the site that has been developed on greenbelt land.
Any eviction is unlikely to happen in the next week as the council gave assurances to the High Court that it would take into account the health of one Dale Farm resident, 72-year-old Mary Flynn, before proceeding.
Joseph Jones, the secretary of the Gypsy Council said he expected the council would not want to start any eviction procedure around her as it "could be interpreted as a bit heartless".
He said that the Dale Farm negotiating team had been told by the council that they would be given notice before any moves were made to remove them. Jones said he did not expect the council to "start throwing their weight around" by turning up unannounced, as there were "all sorts of implications to that type of way of behaving".
While the travellers own the land the council said they did not have planning permission to build on it. But Jones said the council could still change their mind about proceeding with the eviction, and instead choose to re-examine planning applications.
It has been reported that the operation could begin from September 13 as the council has apparently cancelled all its meetings between then and September 22. The local Echo newspaper said it had learned this was because a "special site clearance project team of council officers" would be occupying the rooms usually used for meetings.
Talking about the forthcoming clearance operation, councillor Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said he had no choice but to forcibly remove them.
“Direct action to clear Dale Farm is a last resort for the council and we take it reluctantly - but after almost 10 years of legal wrangling, the travellers have left us with absolutely no choice," he said.
“We now have a difficult operation which we will carry out in a safe and lawful fashion," he said. " “In the meantime I am making a final appeal to the residents to leave Dale Farm peacefully. I would also ask any visitors to the site or anyone who truly has the traveller’s interests at heart to urge them to do this as well.”
Lawyers acting for the Dale Farm residents say they plan to appeal the decision not to grant an injunction.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more