A WAR of words has broken out between two sparring parties ahead of the council elections.
The ruling Tory administration on Basildon Council has accused its main opposition, Labour, of dirty tricks in its election leaflet for Laindon Park.
The leaflet says: “The Conservative council has announced proposals for new travellers’ sites in Pound Lane and Church Road.
Labour has made it clear we oppose this.”
However, Tories have called the claim an “outright lie”. In 2011, Basildon Council opposed an application from travellers for a 12-caravan pitch on the site, a decision that was upheld at a planning inquiry.
That decision was upheld by the Department of Communities and Local Government last year after it emerged travellers were looking to buy the land, which is owned by the Homes and Communities Agency.
Tories have called on their Labour counterparts to apologise, but the opposing party claim it was just a robust challenge of policies.
Tony Ball, leader of the council, whose Wickford North seat is up for grabs, said: “Where is the evidence?
“This is outrageous and an outright lie.
“They should withdraw this and apologise.”
However, the Labour Party’s leader, Nigel Smith, has hit back.
He said: “If the Conservatives are saying these plans are dead and buried, then good.
“In election campaigns, you can expect some pretty tough political debate.
“If Tony Ball and John Dornan want us to apologise, then tough.
“I want assurances from the chief executive that these plans are dead, not from the mouth of John Dornan.”
Campaigners against the 12- unit traveller pitch close to Church Lane handed in a 1,200- name petition against the plans in May 2011.
Basildon Council opposed the proposals, from ex-Dale Farm residents, and its decision was kept when the application went to a planning appeal.
Last year, fresh fears were raised after it emerged that the travellers had held discussions with the landowners with a view to buying the land, but the Communities and Local Government Minister finally quashed the plans behind closed doors. John Dornan, Tory councillor who is up for re-election in Laindon Park, said: “This is a complete fabrication and scaremongering.
“This borders on incitement to stir up racial hatred.”
* Candidates standing for election in Wickford North are Tony Ball (Conservative), Albert Adele (Labour) and Peter Holliman (Ukip).
* Candidates standing for election in Laindon Park are Francis Barnes-Challinor (Lib Dem), Lauren Brown (Labour), John Dornan (Conservative), Mark Ellis (Ukip), and Anthony Harms (National Front).