How can mediation help bridge the culture divide between two cultures in conflict? Whilst mediation is often concerned with interpersonal relationships, it is incumbent on ADR professionals to consider how ADR techniques could be used to address issues in society, which reveal fractures and distortions. One such cultural conflict was that surrounding Dale Farm.

The Dale Farm eviction is the largest planned eviction in the history of the United Kingdom (UK), with 86 families and 100 children facing eviction from their homes.[1] The Irish Travellers living on the site have been at odds with the local Basildon Borough Council (Basildon Council) since the 1990s.

Irish Travellers have lived legally on land at the Dale Farm site since the 1960s.[2] The current conflict goes back to 1994 when a group of Irish Travellers bought land adjacent to the then existing Traveller settlement at Dale Farm (parts of which had been in use as a scrap metal yard).[3]  The Travellers bought the land even though Dale Farm was in an area designated as green belt, which prohibited the development of housing units.  Within the UK, the green belt policy is designed to “prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.”[4] Basildon Council’s view is that they are performing their duties in protecting the greenbelt and maintaining the equal treatment under the law of all groups.[5] 

by Sala Sihombing
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ENDNOTES:
[1] The Advocacy Project, (Oct 14, 2011 at 3.15pm), http://www.advocacynet.org/page/dalefarm.
[2] Rachel Stevenson, Dale Farm Travellers: ‘We won’t just get up and leave’, The Guardian (Jul. 26, 2010), http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/27/dale-farm-essex-travellers-eviction.
[3] The Advocacy Project, (Oct. 13, 2011 at 10.31pm), http://www.advocacynet.org/page/dalefarmtimeline.
[4] Department for Communities and Local Government, Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 Green Belt (2006).
[5] Basildon Borough Council, Aren’t you discriminating against travellers and their lifestyle?,  (Oct.13 2011 at 10.39pm), http://basildon.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3976&faqdetailid=400&inplace=true.

Sala Sihombing originally qualified as a solicitor in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. After 14 years in banking, she has shifted gears, recently completing a Masters in Law from the Straus Institute at the Pepperdine University School of Law. www.conflictchange.com