Traveller site plans rejected by council

A BID to legalise a travellers site in Vange has been unanimously booted out by planning officials.

Plans for the site next to Willow Cottage in Southend Road, off Five Bells roundabout, in Vange, were not even debated by Thurrock Council’s planning committee.

An enforcement notice will now be served but it is likely Ward family who moved on to the plot of green belt land over the Easter weekend and have since developed it illegally, will appeal which could drag the process on for months.

The site is just on the border of Basildon and Thurrock, meaning Thurrock Council is responsible for enforcing planning.

Basildon Tory councillor Malcolm Buckley previously warned the borough could be saddled with another illegal settlement for years after Thurrock Council failed to issue a stop notice which would have made the continued development a criminal offence.

He was at the forefront of planning the multi-million pound eviction of Dale Farm in Crays Hill, in 2011.

Mr Buckley said: “ An application was lodged in June for the site, which consists of four caravans, four utility blocks, fences, gates and three stables, to gain retrospective planning permission.

Wranglings between Thurrock Council and Essex County Council over whose responsibility the land was caused a delay in action, allowing the site to develop and an application be lodged.

The committee heard the Ward family have put up fences, removed established vegetation, formed wide vehicle access from a busy main road, named their illegal plot Willow Stables and now Manor View.

There are currently five adults and six children, the oldest aged seven, living on the site. The children attend Corringham Primary School and several members of the family have health issues which require regular trips to hospitals in Basildon and Romford.

A written statement submitted on behalf of the family said: "We are disappointed with the recommendation for refusal. We travel as a family group and had hoped to settle in Thurrock, but have been unable to find available pitches in the area."

The family added points of objection made by residents may be "incorrect". They also said they would be prepared to make infrastructure contributions.

Committee member councillor Phil Anderson said at Thursday’s meeting: "This application hasn't been taken desperately seriously or in good faith. This was more an attempt to string out the process and is an abuse of those processes."

After the meeting, two members of the Ward family and Gary Coxshall, their agent, declined to comment.

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