SPRAWLING: Part of the growing Hovefields traveller site
A COUNCIL which spent hundreds of thousands of pounds clearing illegally-expanded areas of a traveller site could give the green light for them to be rebuilt, tripling its size in the process.
Basildon Council has proposed allowing the increase of the site off Hovefields Avenue, Wickford, near Basildon, Essex, from 11 pitches to 33.
The council has been trying to develop a planning blueprint called a local plan for more than a decade without success.
the latest draft version includes the increased size of the site, which it had demolished unlawful pitches on from 2005 to 2010, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to taxpayers.
Settled residents who neighbour the curet 11 lawful pitches are flabbergasted and have accused the council of breaching national planning policy by swamping them with more caravan pitches than settled homes.
TRASHED: Damage to a window of the Walsh family property in Hovefields Avenue
Residents who have spoken out about the ongoing unlawful expansion of the site say they have seen their homes targeted with fireworks and stones.
A statement from Hovefields Residents Association said: "Basildon council is ignoring national planning policy in their draft local plan by considering a further 22 pitches in the Hovefields area, in addition to the 11 authorised pitches that exist. "This represents a 200 percent increase in gypsy/traveller provision, with settled residents numbering only nine households."
The association said national policy was for councils to ensure their plan "promotes peaceful and integrated co-existence between the site and the local community" and avoids placing pressure on local infrastructure and services.
Jenny Mace, chair of the association, said: "To create such an imbalance in our community is morally wrong and against all government guidelines.
"Residents recently have undergone targeted attacks on their house by fireworks, and windows have been smashed with stones, marbles and hardcore.
"Basildon Council has a duty to provide traveller sites, which they have done.
"However, enough is enough. These should not be considered in Hovefields.
"The council also has a duty of care to residents and given the recent vicious attacks on property in Hovefields should not consider clustering more travellers in this area."
FEAR: Fireworks recovered by the Walshes who say they were aimed at their home
Previous planning enquiries found that roads and sewerage in the area were inadequate to take further homes as properties use bess tanks and are not on the mains system.
A council spokesman said last year while the draft was being developed: "Twenty two pitches are proposed across 12 sites in Hovefields Avenue.
"This does include sites which are currently unauthorised and the intensification of existing authorised sites."
The council said the plan was yet to be adopted, but changes in guidance since the evictions led to the decision.
The spokesman said: "The draft local plan has looked at the issue afresh and assessed the needs for different types of development and assessed whether those needs can be met.
"In respects of Gypsy and Traveller needs, an independent Site Potential Study was undertaken in 2014/2015 to determine whether there was any suitable land in the Basildon Borough that could help meet the identified needs by 2033.
"This approach looked at suitability of different parcels of land taking into account national guidance published in 2012 and 2014 respectively."
He also said it had been right to demolish the unauthorised sites at the time, arguing the previous local plan adopted in 1998 listed them in the green belt, whereas the new draft does not.