Dale Farm travellers camp eviction notices served

Eviction notices have been served on families living illegally at England's largest travellers' site.

Basildon Council has given people living on 51 unauthorised pitches at Dale Farm, Essex, until the end of August to leave.

More than 400 travellers currently live at the former scrapyard.

About half of the 100 pitches do not have planning permission. Travellers began to set up pitches illegally on the greenbelt land in 2001.

The notice requires them to vacate the land or the council will enter and dismantle the camp.

Kathleen McCarthy, from Dale Farm, said a lot of the travellers were very distressed at the notices being served.

'People left homeless'

Policing the clearance of what is thought to be the largest traveller site in Europe could cost up to £9.5m.

The first £2.5m in costs are to be met by Essex Police Authority (EPA). The next £2.4m is to be shared equally between the Home Office and Basildon Council.

A further £2.3m in costs will be met by the Home Office alone who will then share the remainder with the EPA.

Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council, said it was unlikely residents would leave before the 28-day deadline expired.

He said: "You have to ask if it is value for money for taxpayers to pay millions for the police operation and millions more when these people are left homeless.

'Poor advice'

"They will not leave voluntarily so I suppose the police will have to go in and I don't suppose the residents will welcome them with open arms."

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said he was "concerned that a number of campaigners are giving poor advice to the travellers, leading them to pursue continual challenges rather than urging them to make preparations to leave".

Mr Ball added: "I believe this has given the travellers false hope as it has made them believe a last-minute legal ruling could stop the site clearance. I feel these campaigners are doing a great disservice to the people they are attempting to help.

"As a result, over the years few people on this site have accepted our offers of help. That said, there is still absolutely no reason why children, the elderly or vulnerable should end up on the roadside."

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