TRAVELLERS pitched up illegally in a park...then started charging £30 to allow people to dump rubbish on the site.

Furious residents and councillors became suspicious after a huge pile of waste started to build up after two groups of travellers set up camp in Rushley Park, Basildon.

The pile was so large it appeared to be impossible for the group of 12 travellers to have left it by themselves. Then the dumping scheme emerged.

One group of travellers left at the end of last week after being served a notice by Essex County Council. However, a small group have remained.

Basildon Council paid £500 for security guards to stand at the entrance last Thursday and they were stunned to hear people were bringing their rubbish to the site to dump it.

They told them the travellers were charging other travellers to dump their waste there.

Conservative councillor Kevin Blake, who lives nearby and has been working with residents and the council to find a solution, isn’t happy.

He said: “Low and behold the security guards had loads of people turn up who wanted to dump their rubbish throughout the day. The guards turned them away and took their registration numbers.

“Because the remaining travellers couldn’t get an income they left soon afterwards. It must have cost us £500 for the security guards, but it has saved us money in the long term.

“They were so successful we paid for them to stay on the Friday as well.”

He added that previously travellers had left 100 tonnes of rubbish near to St Nicholas Church in Laindon.

The cost of the clean-up reached about £6,000 and so the £500 sum was a small price to pay in comparison.

The current pile at Rushley Park contains a mixture of household and garden waste, including bits of wood, a sofa, bin bags, trees, clothes and cans.

There are several large mounds scattered around the park which is a popular place for dog walkers and families.

Mr Blake added that action would be taken to prevent the travellers returning.

He said: “We are looking to put up bollards to stop them from getting in.

“It will be a pain for us because we also need to get access to the site to cut the grass.

“It will be a one tonne bollard so it will be hard for them to move.

“We will have to pay for specialist equipment to move it when we need it.”

Nearby residents had expressed concerns about the travellers on the land lighting fires and preventing local people from using the popular park.

This is the fourth time that travellers have pitched up on the park in the last year.

The council has previously said that a direction to leave notice was served on the first group of travellers and the second were moved off by police because they were accused of fly-tipping.