The leader of Basildon council has warned that a battle to evict dozens of illegal travellers from a site in Essex could turn into “Dale Farm part 2”.
The local authority has been trying to remove travellers from a five acre just two miles from Dale Farm, scene of Britain’s arguably most notorious camp site.
Dale Farm was razed to the ground in 2011, but now the council fears they could have a similar situation on their hands.
An email, seen by the Times newspaper, suggest senior members of the council are worried about a potentially deteriorating situation at the site known as Hovefields in Wickford.
In a message to planning officials and police in March, Phil Turner, then the council leader, wrote: “Team seriously. I just feel we are watching and presiding over Dale Farm part 2.”
The email was sent after residents of Hovefields Avenue complained that ten 20-tonne lorries had delivered hardcore to the site.
Travellers also demolished the fence of an elderly couple living at the end of the road and bulldozed trees, reported the Times.
Residents’ fears were increased by a court decision earlier this month when a judge ruled that up to 30 travellers could stay on the new plot of land, despite ignoring a previous injunction to deliver 700 tonnes of building material to the site.
Councillors argue the travellers have no permission to turn the land into a caravan site.
Residents close to the site also fear a repeat of events from six years ago.
Jill Walsh, of the Hovefields Residents’ Association, who recently had stones hurled at her house, said she had “endured ten years of hell”.
“We knew it was a large site as there were five lorries delivering tarmac.”
Aerial footage for the new site published in March this year showed the extent of tarmac work that had gone on at the green belt land site.
It is thought that up to 50 families could eventually move onto the site.
Berenice Bateman, 82, who has lived there for 56 years, and her son George, 60, said they now rarely left their house.
“The children wander round with their air rifles and their slingshots firing ball bearings and we have been forced to lock our gates . . . The council should have put an end to this a long time ago. If they want it to become a travellers’ camp, then just buy us out. What other choice have we got?”
The site was initially taken by travellers in 2001, prompting a decade-long issue.
It ended 10 years later in violent clashes when police cleared the site with bailiffs in October 2011.
It is estimated the total eviction cost the taxpayer almost £7 million.
Basildon council insists it is doing “all it can within current laws to tackle planning breaches”.