BASILDON still has a “dire shortage” of traveller sites, according to a Government inspector who has just allowed a gipsy family to live on green belt.

The Bruce family live on a legal pitch in Windsor Road, Bowers Gifford, but wanted a second plot so their children could live there, too.

Basildon Council refused permission, but planning inspector Mark Dakeyne overuled the council and said the family can occupy the land.

One of the reasons he cited was “an unmet need” for traveller plots.

The borough already has 115 legal pitches, but there are suggestions room for as many as 62 new authorised traveller pitches should be found.

The council is planning to forcibly evict 90 families from 51 illegal plots at Dale Farm, Crays Hill, next month.

Mr Dakeyne’s ruling says: “There is a clear and immediate need for more sites in the district. A level of need exists, arising from natural growth and overcrowding.”

He criticised the council for not developing a strategy to develop sites in parallel to moves to deal with Dale Farm. He also blames the large number of illegal sites in the borough on a failure to make provision for natural growth in traveller numbers.

The report adds: “I conclude the national and regional need remains and locally, there is an immediate unmet need for more gipsy sites.

“The local immediate need will not be met by planned provision by the council.”

If his views were mirrored by other inspectors it could lead to more council planning decisions being overturned until the target was met.

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said: “I am concerned we have lost another piece of green belt, but not overly concerned by the inspector’s remarks.

He has only said the 62 pitches has to be a material consideration – it is not hard and fast.

“I did not take from it that he was highly critical of the council.”

Mr Ball has previously said the council would resist allowing 62 new legal pitches, while accepting a small number of new sites would be needed to accommodate natural growth among the legal traveller community.