Residents in Essex fear new illegal traveller site that is ‘bigger than Dale Farm’

Andy Wells

Essex residents fear that an illegal new travellers site being set up will be even bigger than Dale Farm.

Dale Farm in Crays Hill, near Basildon, was Europe’s largest illegal travellers‘ site and its clearance in 2011 cost around £7 million.

However, it is claimed that a similar site is being built at Hovefields in Wickford, around two miles from Dale Farm, after lorries delivered more than 600 tonnes of hardcore on Friday.

Jill Walsh, of Hovefields Residents’ Association, said the site was large enough to accommodate 50 families.

Asked whether it could be a second Dale Farm, she replied: “It will be bigger, that’s our concern.”

The site in Basildon was Europe’s largest illegal travellers’ site (Rex)

Almost two thirds of the five-acre field has been covered in asphalt.

Ms Walsh said the development, on a field traditionally used for grazing horses, started on a much smaller scale in August.

She said officers from Basildon Council visited the site at the time, but travellers ignored a temporary stop notice and an injunction obtained last October that bans development on the site.

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The council faces a lengthy legal process to enforce the injunction.

Mrs Walsh added: ”Had the council immediately prosecuted, it would have sent a message to the travellers.”

Three mobile homes and a caravan were apparently moved on to the site last weekend, while a resident’s fence was allegedly demolished and shrubbery was damaged to get the large mobile homes up a narrow lane on to the site.

Bailiffs were called in to remove Dale Farm in 2011 (Rex)

Mrs Walsh said: ”We pray to God that the situation doesn’t develop as I don’t like to think what all the residents’ lives will be like if it does.”

Basildon Council leader Phil Turner said: “Basildon Council completely shares the frustrations and concerns of residents in the Hovefields area about recent incidents of unauthorised development.

“We want to assure residents that the council is using every legal option available to it in an attempt to prevent planning breaches in the area.

“We have already taken strong enforcement action and used the resources and powers available to us as a local planning authority to their fullest extent.

Riot police were on hand when Dale Farm was cleared (Rex)

“However, there are limits to these powers, and while we would like to be able to do more – and do it more quickly – we have to follow proper process if we want to secure a lasting solution.

“We are calling on central Government to put the law right to give us emergency powers to take immediate action to stop the misery being suffered by residents and stop our thin resources being stretched.”

An Essex Police spokesman added: “Essex Police is aware of an unauthorised traveller development on land near Hovefields Avenue.

“We are liaising with the local authority and will continue to monitor the situation.”

Top pic: Rex