A council has voted to go ahead with an £8m land clearance involving hundreds of travellers – from a site they own.
The land, already owned by the travellers, does not have planning permission to build
Officials at Basildon Council admit a “worst-case scenario” could see costs rocket as high as £18m – one third of the its annual budget.
The travellers are presently living on Dale Farm at Crays Hill, a former scrapyard.
The site is owned by the travellers but cannot be built on because of the green belt laws.
Since the families started buying up the land in 2001, the occupation has grown and mobile homes have been erected, to the anger of local residents.
Certain travelling families began buying up the land some years ago
Opponents of the clearance argue that the council is wasting millions and risks making elderly people and children homeless.
However, a council spokesman told Sky News Online, while the council accepted it would have to find alternative accommodation for those who were without, it was not sure it would be necessary.
“The ongoing issue is one of legal pitches,” he said. “This site is on green belt land and so the owners do not have the right to build on it.
“While the council accepts it has a duty of care, it does not believe it will be necessary in this case to rehouse those involved in the clearing.”
The spokesman pointed out a previous case in which 13 of the families involved in a clearance were found to have owned other property in Cambridgeshire.
“As far as I’m aware no-one asked for alternative accommodation after that clearance,” the spokesman said.