Travellers fighting to stay at Crays Hill because they have "nowhere else to go" can today be exposed as shrewd, money-making developers.

Next month, Dale Farm could be legalised by the Government when it announces its final decision following last summer's public inquiry.

If all 52 illegal plots gain planning permission, each will be worth around £150,000. The camp would therefore be worth £7.8million to plot owners.

Dale Farm originally cost traveller John Sheridan £122,000, which he paid in cash in 2002. The site was then split up and sold to other travellers for a total of around £600,000.

The Echo revealed last Wednesday that former traveller homes at Hovefields Avenue, Wickford, which started life as cheap green belt plots, are currently on the market for £500,000.

Now we can exclusively reveal members of the Sheridan clan living illegally at Dale Farm are currently trying to turn farmland into legal homes at the Smithy Fen camp, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire.

Crays Hill travellers have managed to pay thousands of pounds in hard cash for land at Smithy Fen and other parts of the south east, including Hertfordshire and another part of Essex, Stapleford Tawney.

Huge profits will be possible if travellers can sell illegal plots bought for as little £2,000 once they gain planning permission.

The revelations have fired up locals who are convinced some clan members are opportunists, using gipsy status to transform cheap land into valuable homes - and not people of limited means who built illegally because they had no other choice.

Title deeds supplied to the Echo by campaigner Len Gridley, 47, from Oak Road, and Cottenham residents, plus planning appeal and electoral roll records, show some Crays Hill travellers have multiple land ownership.

Travellers argue the same names appear by "coincidence" as they are handed down several times through generations.

But the Echo has now unearthed conclusive proof that people from Dale Farm have been involved in illegal development at Smithy Fen and other sites.

Here are some disturbing examples:

* Dale Farm travellers Patrick Sheridan, Jeremy O'Brien, Michael Slattery and a Richard Sheridan paid £54,000 cash for green belt land at Pond Farm, Crays Hill, last January, using Flat 24, 58 Queensway, London, to register the purchase.

The council moved swiftly to get an injuction to stop any building there in June last year.

* Patrick Sheridan used the same mailbox address to register land at Water Lane, Smithy Fen, in 2002, which he bought with £30,000 in cash.

A mobile home has since been installed and is currently occupied by a traveller.

* Mr Slattery paid £23,000 for land at nearby Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, also in 2002. A mobile home has been installed and is currently occupied by a traveller.

* Mum-of-three Bridget Gammell, 26, is registered at an illegal pitch at Dale Farm, but she is also locked in an appeal battle to stay at an unauthorised home at Victoria View, Smithy Fen.

In both cases, she said she came from Wolverhampton and was desperate for the home, claiming to have no alternative.

Yet she remains on the electoral roll at Broome Road, Wolverhampton, where her extended family live in 21 nearby homes.

* Nora Flynn, 36, told the Dale Farm inquiry she moved to her £25,000 plot at Beauty Drive, Crays Hill, from Cottenham in August 2004.

She said she had been at Cottenham with her parents for only two weeks around the birth of her baby.

She told the inquiry: "I stayed at Cottenham while I had my baby, but they had no room for me and I set up at Crays Hill where I have ground to stay."

But South Cambridgeshire Council records listed her as an appellant at Pine View, Smithy Fen, in June last year.

A lengthy legal battle over the plot and a number of others began in early 2003.

The home was deserted for several months last year.