Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Emily comforts her daughter whilst police and baillifs observe from a distance.

Aldi use aggressive tactics to evict two families

At 9am on Wednesday 6 October, bailiffs and police came to evict two couples living on ‘the old Stamco site’ off Bexhill Road. The land is now owned by Aldi but has been lying derelict for years. Erica Smith was there to witness the processs.

I met Arran and Emily for the first time this Saturday. We talked about next year’s ATownExploresABook book choice – The Diddakoi is about a little girl who is half Romany and half Irish and lives with her grandmother in a traditional gypsy caravan.

Arran and Emily are travellers and have both been on the road for about 25 years. They moved to Hastings over three years ago and their daughter was born in the Ore Valley. They have never stayed in one town for so long or developed such strong friendships and community bonds before.

At 8:50 this morning, Arran rang me to say that they were in process of being evicted. I arrived just in time to see him being bundled into the back of a police car. On the site, there were several police officers and two bailiffs. The police were taking away chain-saws and axes – tools used to cut up wood for fuel, not for armed insurrection. Arran’s partner Emily was there with her daughter who had been held up from going to school on time by the eviction. Their neighbour and fellow traveller Jules was also there. She and her partner have travelled on and off with Arran and Emily over the years.

Just over a week ago, the two couples had been evicted from a long-term site at the old Grove School where they had lived without incident for about two years. There are no allocated sites for travellers anywhere near Hastings. The closest is at Robertsbridge. Arran and Emily and Jules and her partner had been racking their brains trying to find a safe and uncontroversial site to move to. The old Stamco site seemed the only solution.

On Tuesday 5 October at 1pm, a representative for Aldi had appeared on site with an eviction notice for the travellers to leave within two hours. They cited an archaic common law usually only implemented in extreme cases where an individual property owner needs to get immediate access to their property. Aldi has left the old Stamco site derelict since they bought it. Since the new Aldi opened further along Bexhill Road, there has been no use of the land and no real attempts to rent it or sell it. This course of action with no attempt to negotiate or give a reasonable amount of time to prepare to leave seems harsh and inhumane.

When I met Arran on Saturday, we also talked about the new Police Bill which is currently going through Parliament. If it becomes law, not only will it severely limit – and criminalise – the right to protest, but it will make life for travellers virtually impossible. On Saturday Arran gave a weary laugh about this – “As if it’s not hard enough for travellers already!” he said. “If this bill is passed, the only way to stay on the road will be to tether your van to an air balloon or drive it into the sea.”

Whilst the cost of buying and renting is escalating rapidly, it looks like the ‘escape route’ of staying on the road is closing down. If you care about housing, come to the Hastings Rental Health meeting this Saturday at 11am outside Caffe Nero in Hastings town centre. If you care about your human rights, and the rights of travellers, support and help to fight the Police Bill.

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Posted 16:04 Thursday, Oct 7, 2021 In: Campaigns

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