Concern over the welfare of travellers at Crays Hill

Basildon Recorder: Travellers living in Oak Lane Travellers living in Oak Lane

TRAVELLERS living on the roadside near to the former Dale Farm site in Crays Hill, should have their health and welfare urgently assessed, according to a report from MPs.

The travellers – now living in about 20 caravans at the roadside in Oak Lane, at the entrance to the former illegal site – are rarely seen by health visitors, have no toilets and are plagued by rats, according to the findings.

But, despite the concerns raised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gipsies, Travellers and Roma, Basildon Council’s leader Tony Ball said the authority remained committed to taking enforcement action against those still living illegally at the roadside.

The  group visited Oak Lane alongside the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain group, the British Red Cross and volunteers who have been working with those still living there.

Their visit came as the first anniversary of the eviction of the site, last October, approaches.

Following their visit, a report produced by the group said conditions in Oak Lane were “terrible”, with travellers fetching fresh water in jugs from the nearby legal traveller site and coping with no electricity.

It said none of the children living in Oak Lane attended secondary school, and poor conditions had caused a recent outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea, with the report claiming 15 children had to visit local GPs.

The report calls on Basildon Council to immediately assess the health and welfare of people living at the site and refrain from carrying out further evictions as the travellers have nowhere to go. It calls on the Children’s Commissioner to visit the site to examine the risks to health of children and babies living in Oak Lane.

But Mr Ball called on the group – which includes MPs Andy Slaughter and Jane Connolly and Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury – to encourage travellers to take up Basildon Council’s offer of temporary accommodation.

He said: “The council has a duty to uphold the law and remains committed to ensuring the enforcement notices are complied with.

“I said last year there was no need for people to be living on the roadside and to engage with the council regarding personal needs.

“Unfortunately, this has not happened and despite the council making repeated offers of temporary accommodation, none have been accepted.

“If the group is concerned with the welfare of the travellers on Oak Lane, it should be encouraging them to make homelessness applications so those who genuinely have nowhere else to go can be offered suitable temporary accommodation in accordance with our statutory homelessness duty.”

Travellers living in Oak Lane have appealed against Basildon Council notices to leave the area by tomorrow.

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