Essex

Dale Farm: Essex travellers' leader wanted £6m to leave

Dale Farm sign
Image caption Travellers are set to be evicted from the site later this month

A representative of families living on an illegal traveller site in Essex said they would leave if they were paid £6m for their land, a council has said.

Richard Sheridan, Gypsy Council president, is leading the fight against evictions from Dale Farm, Basildon.

Basildon Council said he offered to move the families to Birmingham or Scotland. Mr Sheridan was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Council leader Tony Ball said the sum was "hugely above" the market value.

Last week the travellers lost their 10-year battle to remain at the site and were told they would be evicted on 19 September.

About 40 plots on the site are approved and legal but more than 80 have no planning permission and must be demolished.

About 400 people are said to be living illegally on about 50 plots at Dale Farm.

Basildon Council has set aside a maximum of £8m, and Essex police £10m, for clearance of the site, which covers 6.5 acres (2.6 hectares).

Legal solution sought

The £6m offer was turned down because it would mean travellers profiting from breaking the law, Basildon Council said.

"The council has consistently sought a peaceful resolution to the Dale Farm situation and done all it can to avoid a forced clearance of the site," Mr Ball said.

"I have always said that I would listen to any offers made by the travellers that would help to avoid the forced clearance.

"Traveller representatives offered to sell their land to the council hugely above market value in return for clearing the site.

"I felt I should consider any legal solutions to avoid a forced clearance.

"However, clearly it would have been unacceptable to enter any agreement where the travellers effectively profited from breaking the law and this was a step too far."

Four meetings were held over six months between council chiefs, Mr Sheridan and other travellers.

Joseph Jones, a colleague of Mr Sheridan's at the Gypsy Council, said he did not know whether £6m was asked for.

He said: "The climate of those meetings has to be seen in the backdrop of a community that is desperate to find any solution whatsoever."

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