240 traveller pitches may be forced on Basildon

Massive: Dale Farm before the eviction

Massive: Dale Farm before the eviction

First published in Local News
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THE NUMBER of traveller pitches in Basildon could triple by 2033 if Essex County Council proposals are forced on the borough.

County Hall yesterday announced the number of legal pitches it thinks each council area should accept.

If the plan goes ahead, Basildon will bear the brunt, taking 240 of the nearly 800 County Hall thinks Essexmust have.

Thurrock would have to find space for 104 – but neighbouring Southend, Rochford and Castle Point would take just seven between them.

The figures are likely to put Basildon at loggerheads with County Hall.

The borough council’s own study said last year 271 newpitches were needed to allow for population growth and provide homes for about 100 families evicted from illegal sites at Dale Farm, in Crays Hill, and Hovefields, in Wickford.

Echo: The Dale Farm site

Super site: Dale Farm before the eviction

However, Tory borough council leaders have said they want to providenomorethan170, becausethey don’t think Basildon should be forced to accommodate evicted Dale Farm and Hovefields families who hadmoved from outside the area.

In 2011, the council staged the £7million eviction of 86 families from the illegal Dale Farm site.

Echo: Change – councillor Kevin Blake in the play area

Ridiculous: Kevin Blake

Deputy Basildon Council leader Kevin Blake said: “We will not sit back and allow these levels.

“This is not about racism.

Travellers need accommodation, but it is a collective responsibility, and we need to ensure all boroughs fulfil their duty.

Echo: On their way  one of the travellers leaves the Dale Farm site

Concern: Will more travellers come to the borough?

“If every council had five or six sites, therewould not be a shortfall.

Personally, I find these levels ridiculous, when other boroughs have next to nothing and we alreadyprovide so many sites.

“This is why I would like to see Basildon a unitary authority. I am fed up being dictated to by county on issues like this.”

However, John Jowers, county councillor responsible for planning, said the figures were the result of careful planning, aimed at avoiding problems with illegal encampments.

He added: “This planning document is an excellent example of authorities working together.”

A pitch is an area large enough for a single household – usually housed in one or two caravans.

Last week the Echo reported Basildon Council had paid £44,000 to hire consultants to find room in the borough for 170 pitches.

Echo: Grattan Puxon – strong views on the Dale Farm eviction

Hopeful: Grattan Puxon

Traveller campaigner Grattan Puxon welcomed County Hall’s announcement, saying it showed the council had been wrong to clear Dale Farm and Hovefields.

He added: “We are meeting the Department for Communities and Local Government.

“Wewant to get small numbers of families registered as co-operatives, so they can apply for funding to build sites.

“If Basildon has to provide this many pitches, then there is a lot of empty land available at Dale Farm and Hovefields. It would show what a waste of money the evictions were.”

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