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Monday 18 December 2017

Fears of new traveller camp near Dale Farm down road from original site

Caravans and mobile homes dominate permanent housing at Dale Farm
Caravans and mobile homes dominate permanent housing at Dale Farm

HOUSEHOLDERS fear that a new "Dale Farm" is growing just miles down the road from the original after travellers started expanding another legal camp onto land next door.

It took 10 years and £7m (€8.8m) to close down the original camp after the travellers illegally expanded a site onto a former scrap yard next door.

But while Basildon Council has concentrated on making sure the caravans do not return, residents say they have allowed another illegal settlement to spring up.

The residents said that the council was "too tied up" with eviction of the original Dale Farm to prevent similar planning breaches at a traveller site just minutes down the road.

The new site, less than five miles away, only has planning permission for three traveller pitches but has already extended into a nearby field with mobile homes piling onto the site.

The travellers have also laid down tarmac on the field.

A neighbour, who refused to be named, said: "The council doesn't seem to be doing anything.

"I have asked the officers and they have always told me they were tied up with Dale Farm.

"But that was nearly a year ago, and it has continued to grow.

"I think there might have been problems because the officer told me they had to go there with the police after a row broke out when they tried to go down there on their own."

Following years of planning appeals the council eventually began a £7.1m eviction of the site last October.

Despite the expensive action, travellers continue to live illegally in a lane leading into the site while the six-acre green belt site is covered in fly-tipped rubbish.

Residents now fear a similar battle could begin on their backdoor after Basildon Council failed to take action against the most recent planning breach.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, claimed his council has learnt lessons from the Dale Farm fiasco but admitted it could be months before action is taken at the new site.

He said: "It's not going to be ten years like Dale Farm, but it could be still some months."

A council spokesman added: "Land to the east of Fanton Hall Cottages has been, and continues to be, the subject of creeping unauthorised development.

"Planning enforcement notices have previously been issued in respect of the unauthorised development which has taken place.

"The owners of the land have failed to comply with these notices and the injunctions issued by the court.

"Council officials are assessing the current situation with a view to progressing further action to ensure that the notices are complied with."

By Richard Alleyne

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