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3 February 2012, 09:04
The cost of clearing the UK's largest illegal travellers' site near Basildon has been confirmed as £7 million - but the council in charge has warned that a fresh enforcement action remains likely.
Basildon Council said it spent £4.8 million on last October's operation to remove families living at Dale Farm, Essex.
This includes £1.6 million spent by the council after the initial attempt in September was delayed by a High Court injunction.
The bill still came in under the authority's £8 million budget, which included a contingency fund.
Essex Police has already announced that it spent £2.4 million on its part in the operation.
Despite coming in under budget, council leader Tony Ball admitted:"The ongoing saga around Dale Farm continues to sadden and annoy me in equal measure.
"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, however, 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.''
The clearance, which resulted in violent clashes, followed a decade-long row over authorised plots on the six-acre site.
Mr Ball said that, other than four plots which are allowed to remain, the site had been cleared.
But he said travellers living on a neighbouring site were continuing to flout the law.
He said: "There are currently a number of caravans parked on the road leading up to the old Dale Farm.
"These are in breach of planning regulations and should not be there. Numbers vary over time as individuals come and go but at the last count there was in the region of 16 units on the road.
"There are also a significant number of caravans crowded on to the legal Oak Lane pitches.
"These pitches are approved to accommodate no more than two caravans, or one caravan and one mobile home.
"On approximately half of these pitches this is being exceeded, again in flagrant disregard of the conditions attached to the planning permission.''
Mr Ball said the overcrowding was dangerous and a breach of planning conditions.
"We are aware that some of those now camped on the side of the road and crowded illegally on to Oak Lane came from the original illegal Dale Farm settlement,'' he said.
"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.
"We have appealed to those present to move on but these appeals have not been heeded.
We are working to a clear timetable and time for those travellers illegally occupying this part of Cray's Hill is running out.''