A HUGE pile of rubbish by an illegal travellers’ site was torched – as Lakeside shopping centre bosses struggled to get the group to move on.

Firefighters were called to Lakeside coach park, off Pilgrims Lane, where a pile of rubbish spread 60m by 30m across a neighbouring field, was set alight.

Flames covered about half the pile by the time firefighters arrived, and the incident commander called for additional support from Orsett as the crew’s water ran low.

The fire is believed to have been started deliberately.

Lakeside has already secured an eviction order from the courts to remove the 15 travellers’ caravans from the site, which are not authorised.

Caravans appeared in the coach park at the end of June.

Lakeside operations manager, Kate Miller, said: “We can confirm there was a fire on the coach park the travellers are occupying.

“We have secured an eviction order through the courts.

“In the meantime, we are looking into how best to manage the rubbish and waste disposal.”

One 51-year-old nearby resident, who did not want to be named, said she was horrified at the scale of the rubbish.

She said: It’s just disgusting.

Whoever ends up cleaning it up is looking at lorry loads.”

Mayor and South Chafford councillor Tunde Ojetola said travellers had the right to stay somewhere while passing through Thurrock, but it was their responsibility to find an authorised site.