The Council's Position

Council bosses warn the clearance of Dale Farm could be the beginning of further problems as residents relocate.

Bailiffs employed by Basildon Council will move in to begin the mass eviction of up to 400 people from Dale Farm on Monday morning.

Council leader Tony Ball said the council's top priority was to ensure the clearance was carried out peacefully and legally.

But he added that, once the Dale Farm travellers are gone, the council will face a constant battle to prevent new unauthorised developments.

"We can't let this stop us carrying out the operation. You don't allow one wrong to prevent others," he said.

There are fears among land owners in Essex and surrounding counties, particularly Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, that there will be an influx of travellers.

Some have taken extra precautions to secure their land.

Mr Ball added: "We are aware of other land in the borough which is owned by the travellers and we have secured injunctions to prevent them settling there.

"But we can't know the unknown - there may be land which they own which we haven't identified.

"We also have to be alive to them occupying private land and will use trespass powers to prevent that.

"Further in the future, the travellers will still own the Dale Farm site and, although they can return to graze horses for example, we will take measures to stop then settling again."

He said many of those living on the 51 unauthorised plots may relocate to the neighbouring legal site.

"We are perfectly happy for them to do that," he added.

Mr Ball defended the council against accusations that it has failed to provide legal pitches for Dale Farm travellers.

He said: "We have 113 authorised pitches which, I believe, is more per acre than any other authority in the country."

He also denied that prejudice has motivated repeated refusals of planning permission.

"The site was a scrapyard before the travellers arrived but much of it was unauthorised and we would have taken enforcement action against that.

"Likewise, we have recently taken similar action against a house which was built illegally about a mile away from Dale Farm.

"The issue here is one of scale - Government guidance says travellers settlements should be between 12 to 15 plots and Dale Farm far exceeds this.

"I absolutely reject claims the council is racist or prejudiced. We are treating them the same as anybody else - that is true equality."

He said the council has received 56 homelessness applications from residents and more are expected once the clearance begins.

He also said the authority would ensure that bailiffs acted peacefully,

"Their contract dictates that they must comply with the law.

"Our collective worst nightmare is that somebody, be it a council worker, a bailiff or a traveller, gets hurt."

There is a sense of frustration within the council that a resolution could not be found.

Deputy leader Stephen Horgan said: "Tony has sought to engage with the travellers every step of the way; in fact, he has been criticised for going too far to help them.

"The frustrating thing is, if it had just been the council and the travellers, I'm sure we would have settled it years ago.

"But you've got all these do-gooders coming in, giving them false hope.

"You have these UN committees saying the clearance is illegal.

"Funnily enough, the UN doesn't play much part in the way this council is run - I can barely remember the last time we were invited to the Security Council."