Southend United star player Freddy Eastwood is locked in a legal battle to allow his family to stay in a mobile home on the green belt.

He is appealing to the Government to be allowed to remain at the traveller plot at Cranfield Park Close, Wickford, after Basildon Council refused planning permission.

Freddy, 22, who has scored 51 goals in 89 games since joining the Blues from Grays Athletic in 2004, did not attend a public inquiry into his and four other plots at the unauthorised site.

However, a personal statement to planning inspector Wendy McKay explained why he had set up home there for himself, wife Debbie and children Freddy, four, and Chardonnay, two.

The statement said: "We are Romany gipsies and part of a small community of English Romany gipsies living along Cranfield Park Avenue.

"My father lives on an authorised site known as Bradleys, where I also lived before moving on to the appeal site.

"Bradleys is only licensed to accommodate one family and both I and my sister had to move off to find our own plots.

"Moving to the appeal site has allowed the Eastwood family to stay together in an area I have lived in all my life."

Freddy, who earns around £100,000 a year, has been the club's top goalscorer for the past two seasons and was voted player of the season last year.

He played a huge part in the club's promotion into the Championship League.

Title deeds show he paid £2,000 for the land occupied by his mobile home in July 2004.

Freddy has failed to return repeated calls from the Echo to comment on the planning appeal.

Southend United, which was offered £1million for his transfer to Derby County at the beginning of the season, also declined to comment other than to say Freddy denied living at the unauthorised plot.

Speaking from Bradleys, Freddy's mother claimed the plot in question was occupied by an unmarried Fred Eastwood who was the son of her brother-in-law. She said the details in the inquiry statement must have been a mistake but would not say where Freddy lived.

Basildon Council leader Malcolm Buckley, who is a Southend United supporter, said: "Irrespective of who is involved, everybody must comply with planning policy.

"The council will enforce this without fear of favour to anybody. We would prefer people to get planning permission first."