Brentwood Council considers response to Dale Farm traveller eviction
Brentwood councillors and officers met on Wednesday night to discuss how the council will respond to the eviction of 86 families from the UK’s largest illegal traveller site at Dale Farm, near Basildon.
The meeting, about gipsy and traveller issues in general, was dominated by talk of the nearby site – on the day when the families lost their last-ditch legal appeal at the High Court.
The site is just over five miles away from Hutton.
Cllr Mike Le-Surf (Labour, Brentwood South), who believes the families should be allowed to stay at the site, said that there was uncertainty about the future.
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“They will have to wait and see what happens, because there’s a number of different scenarios.
“They might already own land, they might go on someone else’s land, they might go on [Brentwood] council-owned land or they could go onto Essex County Council land, and the county council has a different approach to these things.”
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He added: “They are settled and going to school, they’ve got doctor surgeries there, they’re not going to move too far away.
“I think Basildon have made a huge mistake. They shouldn’t have let it get to this stage – they should have sorted it out much sooner.”
Lib-Dem leader Cllr David Kendall (Pilgrims Hatch) said: “I think Brentwood is as prepared as anyone else is. In my view, there should have been more joined-up thinking between different local authorities on this.
“It’s going to cost, I think, �18million to move them and I can see this being a massive issue that’s going to keep ticking over for some time.”
Earlier this year, Brentwood Council had to evict a group of travellers from the Brentwood Centre and then Childerditch Common in Warley.
Earlier this week the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood, said: “This is essentially an issue for national government. It cannot be left to local councils moving the issue from place to place.”
Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said: “The council has spent 10 years trying to avoid a forced clearance. We have always sought to persuade the travellers to move on.” He added that the issue was a planning dispute and is nothing to do with the travellers’ lifestyle.