Essex

Basildon Council votes to clear 86 traveller families

Travellers on an illegal site on green belt land in Essex are to be evicted at a cost of £8m.

Basildon Council has voted 28 to 10 to clear 86 traveller families from Dale Farm at Crays Hill.

The council will pay £8m and police are expecting to spend several million pounds on an operation due to start 28 days after a legal order is imposed.

People first began developing pitches without planning permission in 2001, leading to years of court battles.

Conservative-led Basildon Council insist planning laws had to be upheld and gave the green light for the eviction despite opposition from Labour and Liberal Democrats.

All attempts to find alternative sites had failed and eviction orders now had to be enforced, the council said.

Jobs risk claim

Opponents said the council would be wasting millions of pounds and risk making elderly people and children homeless.

Several hundred members of the public, including travellers from the site, were in a theatre surrounded by police to hear the debate and the decision.

The meeting was told that attempts to secure funds from central government had failed.

Opponents said £8m was a third of the council's annual budget and going ahead with the eviction could lead to staff losing jobs.

The council has yet to announce when the clearance operation will start.

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