Eviction To Go Ahead, Say Basildon Council
The leader of a council set to clear the UK's largest illegal travellers' site has said: "All preparations have been completed."
Basildon Council leader Tony Ball refused to confirm that the eviction of Dale Farm, Essex, would begin at first light on Wednesday but he said the clearance was imminent and that no further negotiations would take place.
Travellers and supporters inside Dale Farm locked down the site on Tuesday night and three people were planning to chain themselves to the main gate by the neck.
A delegation of travellers which met council officials on Tuesday said they expected bailiffs to move in on Wednesday morning. Dozens of bailiffs arrived at a council compound neighbouring the site for final preparations and two diggers and a crane were on standby.
Mr Ball said: "The time for talking is over. We have given the travellers every chance to leave peacefully and they have not taken it. Now our job is to clear the site in a safe and humane manner.
"It is quite clear to me that the majority of the public want us to do that. My biggest fear is that somebody - be it a bailiff, a police officer, a traveller or a supporter - gets hurt. I would call on those inside Dale Farm to behave sensibly and responsibly."
Supporters have reinforced the barricade inside the main gate and smaller barricades are in place throughout the site. Piles of wood and bricks have been gathered at various key points.
Campaigner Grattan Puxon was among those who walked out of a meeting with the council on Tuesday after it became clear the authority was not prepared to negotiate. The council said the only purpose of the meeting was to explain how the clearance would take place in a controlled and safe manner.
Mr Puxon said: "All avenues have been exhausted. The council is going to make families homeless without providing any alternative."
The clearance of 54 unauthorised plots, home to about 80 families, follows a decade-long row over the development of the green belt site. Last week the travellers lost a High Court bid to stop the eviction and on Monday they were refused the chance to appeal against that ruling.