Essex

Dale Farm travellers: Council eviction bill tops £4.8m

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Media captionBasildon Council may face a new bill for evicting travellers still living illegally at Dale Farm

Basildon Council spent £4.8m on the forced clearance of the Dale Farm travellers' site in Essex, it has been revealed.

Work to shut down the UK's largest illegal travellers' settlement, which resulted in violent clashes, was completed in November.

The authority said £1.6m was spent on contesting a series of injunctions brought by the travellers.

Last week Essex Police said their role in the eviction cost £2.3m.

It had been thought total costs could have been as much as £18m, with the council budgeting for £8m, which included a contingency fund, and Essex Police for £9.5m.

Under budget

Conservative leader of Basildon Council, Tony Ball, said: "It gives me some degree of satisfaction that the operation was carried out under budget and this is thanks to the hard work and professionalism of council staff, our contractors and our partners in the fire, health and police services.

"I was, and remain, annoyed that £1.6 million was added to our final bill by the delay and legal costs incurred between September and October when the travellers' launched their last minute legal challenge against the council's right to clear Dale Farm.

Image caption Firefighters were called after a caravan was set alight during the October 2011 evictions

"Had we done nothing there would have been a bigger cost.

"There would have been damage to Basildon borough as a whole, as a borough that would just let people develop and build wherever they like."

Local resident Len Gridley, whose land backs on to the Dale Farm site, said: "It's money not well spent. It's a waste of money because the travellers have only moved 500 yards down the road.

"It's nine years ago since we mentioned about the doubling-up and everything else on the legal site and they should have dealt with it then.

"It's a problem caused by Basildon Council's mal-administration and neglect to the people of the village."

Mary Sheridan, a traveller who lived on the illegal Dale Farm site and is now living on the adjacent Oak Lane, said: "Tony Ball thought when we would go from Dale Farm we would disappear, but we haven't.

"For all that money all they've done is move us 50 metres.

"We will stay on the lane because where else can we go?"

Return of bailiffs

Last week the council said it was preparing fresh action to remove caravans from the land close to the Dale Farm site.

The move could see bailiffs and police return for a second time.

Mr Ball said those camped on the side of the road and crowded on to Oak Lane came from the original illegal Dale Farm settlement.

"We are also aware that there are a number of new faces among this makeshift community.

"The situation at Oak Lane is unacceptable and this council will not tolerate it."

An estimated 80 families were evicted from the six-acre site following a decade-long planning row over the settlement, some of which was on green belt land.

Within weeks of the evictions, at least 10 families had moved back on to roads inside the site.

Although the illegal part of the site is now clear, it is estimated there are about 50 caravans parked illegally in the area, both on the roadside and on the legal site, taking it above its 34-plot authorised capacity.

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