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Friday, January 20, 2012

Battle for Dale Farm II: Council set for ANOTHER fight as dozens of caravans flock to site next door

-Caravans park on site next to illegal Essex settlement
-Travellers to be issued with eviction at end of month
-Total bill and legal costs for original clearance last year cost taxpayer £18m
-Aerial views of Dale Farm show how caravans have descended on other half of site, putting it over capacity
-HALF of pitches on legal side breach planning conditions

By Chris Parsons

Taken over: The Dale Farm site, three months after its eviction, shows that while the illegal half on the right has been cleared, the number of caravans on the legal half next door has now swollen

The council which cleared the UK's largest illegal travellers settlement was today bracing itself for a fresh eviction battle after caravans moved to a neighbouring site.

Just weeks after Basildon Council cleared travellers from green belt land on Dale Farm following a decade-long row, caravans have parked up on a settlement immediately next to the now-empty Essex site.

Although the illegal part of the site is now clear, at least 50 caravans are thought to be on the neighbouring legal site, exceeding its authorised capacity.

Basildon Council revealed today that of the 34 caravan pitches on the legal side of Dale Farm, half are in breach of planning permission and are set to be served with eviction notices.

Taken over: The Dale Farm site, three months after its eviction, shows that while the illegal half on the right has been cleared, the number of caravans on the legal half next door has now swollen

Eyesore: A picture taken on November 8, around three weeks after the original eviction shows how relatively quiet the legal half of the site was before travellers descended on it in recent weeks

The authority today confirmed it was drafting new enforcement notices to remove travellers from the site by the end of next month.

The notices are expected to be served by the end of January and would give travellers 28 days to vacate the land.

Aerial pictures today showed the extent of the remaining traveller issue at Dale Farm, as caravans filled the settlements and surrounding streets.

By comparison, in the immediate aftermath of last October's eviction, the side roads on the legal side of Dale Farm had been almost entirely clear.

The latest council battle against illegal traveller sites could be a protracted one - as the authority has had to start the legal process from scratch.

The council is now assessing how many people living on the legal half of the site are not entitled to be there.

Many of those who are illegally living near Oak Lane on the legal part of the Dale Farm site are travellers who were moved from the illegal settlement yards away just three months ago.

Basildon Council completed the clearance of Dale Farm in November after Essex Police removed protesters amid violent clashes on the green belt site.

Fire fight: The Dale Farm site erupted into violent clashes when police and bailiffs moved to evict travellers late last year

Battle: Police rise up on a cherry picker during the peak of the eviction fight at Dale Farm last October

Council leader Tony Ball revealed that a large number of travellers still on the Dale Farm site are families who were not on the site previously, which he said was 'frustrating'.

An estimated 80 families were removed from the six-acre site following a decade-long row over the settlement on green belt land.

But within weeks at least 10 families had moved back on to roads inside the site.

Mr Ball said that to leave Dale Farm as it was last year was 'not an option', and that those now illegally on the site will be told to leave by the end of February.

Mr Ball told MailOnline: 'Each plot on Oak Lane has conditions for what you can have on that plot and how many caravans are allowed there.

'At the moment around 50 per cent of the plots on the legal side are in breach of planning conditions.

Legal fight: The Dale Farm camp near Basildon in September, as Basildon Council attempted to end their ten-year battle with travellers on the illegal site

'It's frustrating because this could have been done before the operation was carried out in October, and could've saved a lot of money.

'It's also frustrating to see travellers there now who have not been to Dale Farm before.

'The fact the law is now being broken there means we will move in to enforce it.'

Asked how confident he is that the travellers living illegally at Dale Farm will be evicted by the end of next month, Mr Ball added: 'It will take as long as it takes.

'The travellers do have the right of appeal on enforcement notices, and if that's the case we will be in the hands of the courts.'

Reports locally today suggested the bill for the original clearance came to £4.2 million.

The council said it had not yet calculated the total cost of the original operation as it awaits invoices from contractors.

But a spokesman said the authority was 'confident' the cost would come in under the £8 million budget.



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