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More cash set aside for bailiffs to target illegal developments
A NEW team of bailiffs will be appointed to crack down on planning breaches and continue tackling illegal travellers’ sites in Basildon.
Councillors will tonight <thurs> vote on a plan to hire bailiffs to carry out planning enforcement across the borough.
The council has budgeted to spend £300,000 a year over the next three years on planning enforcement and will have to tender across Europe before appointing the bailiffs.
The move comes just 15 months after the eviction at Dale Farm, which cost the taxpayer more than £7million.
The contract with bailiff firm Constant & Co, which carried out the Dale Farm clearance and a series of smaller operations at the Hovefields site in Wickford from 2005 to 2010, expired last month.
The firm awarded the contract could have to carry out any planning enforcement across the borough, but the report makes clear it is specifically tailored towards illegal traveller sites.
A report to the council from officials said: “The council will require bidders to specify their costs for carrying out a range of operations including the removal of caravans, mobile homes and other portable structures from land.”
Malcolm Buckley, Tory councillor responsible for regeneration, said: "This is needed because the previous contract has come to an end and it will be in respect of all planning enforcement issues, not just unauthorsed traveller sites, although this remains an issue in the borough."
Len Gridley, 54, from Oak Road, Crays Hill, who campaigned for the Dale Farm eviction, called for the cash to be spent “sorting out the mess” left at Dale Farm.
He added: “It was supposed to be restored to green belt, but is just a rubble strewn eyesore. I want to see that cleaned up first.”
Since the 54 illegal pitches were demolished around 20 caravans have remained parked illegally in Oak Lane, the road leading to the site.
There are also still some occupancy breaches on the neighbouring legal site, about five unauthorized pitches left at Hovefields and an unlawful expansion of the three legal pitches off Harrow Road, North Benfleet, to deal with.
Stuart Hardwicke-Carruthers, a campaigner for the Dale Farm families, is trying to get more sites built and even preparing a planning application to rebuild Dale Farm as revealed by the Echo this week.
He said: “The council should focus on identifying sites to meet the shortage in the borough rather than wasting money on more needless evictions.”
Basildon Council’s environment and regeneration committee will debate the proposal to hire new bailiffs tonight.