Basildon: Council Targets New Site

The council which cleared the UK's largest illegal travellers settlement at Crays Hill is preparing to take fresh action after caravans moved to a neighbouring site.

Basildon Council confirmed it had begun drafting new enforcement notices to remove travellers from a legal site neighbouring Dale Farm.

These are expected to be served by the end of January and would give travellers 28 days to vacate the land. The move could see bailiffs and police take action for a second time, following last year's clearance operation which resulted in violent clashes.

A council spokesman said: "From a legal point of view, we are treating this as a separate case from the Dale Farm clearance so the process has had to begin from scratch."

Basildon Council completed the clearance of Dale Farm in November after Essex Police removed protesters. 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. 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.

Speaking after the eviction, council leader Tony Ball admitted a second clearance may be necessary.

He said: "We will talk to the travellers and take legal measures but ultimately we may have to resort to further direct action in order to remove them. We hope it doesn't come to that, but it is very much a possibility."

Reports have 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.