EXCLUSIVE: DALE FARM 2? Power cut as travellers start work on new large Hovefields development today
POLICE are at a traveller area less than two miles from the former Dale Farm development after scores of lorries arrived this morning to develop a new unauthorised caravan site.
Power supplies in the area have been taken out by the illegal construction work on the green belt land, according to exasperated locals who have been surrounded by unauthorised pitches for years. Residents in the Hovefields area, near Wickford, Essex, told Essex News and Investigations there had been about 100 lorries filled with hardcore arrive from 6am, before they started creating a hard base on the field off Hovefields Drive. Hovefields is a mixed area with authorised and unauthorised traveller pitches and settled residents living there. Much of the illegal developments were demolished in 2010 a year before the £7 million clearance of the Dale Farm traveller site, but there have been a series of new unauthorised developments at Hovefields in the years since.
CONTROVERSIAL: Hovefields area seen from the air - the area in question is to the bottom right (Google)
A settled resident said: "They have hit the overhead cables and taken them out and we have been left with no power to the house. It started at about midnight last night when people turned up on the site and started plotting up the pitches. "Since about 6am this morning there have been about 100 lorries come in delivering hardcore to form the bases of the pitches. "The police are here now, but there was a rumour circulating that this was going to happen and we told the council, but they didn't seem to take it too seriously. "The land is under an injunction so they should be able to stop the development, but if it carries on this could be as big as Dale Farm."
Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan today tweeted: "I am aware of the very serious breach of the law currently ongoing at Hovefields. "
He called for police to use coronavirus regulations to make arrests on grounds of it being a mass gathering.
He added: "It is clear to me that contractors on site are breaching the Covid-19 regulations and arrests should be made by Essex Police in this regard and I hope that this is done today.
"I also want to assure residents that the council is using every legal option available to us to ensure that this situation is rectified.
"The council is in constant communication with Essex Police and our planning officers are working around the clock."
David Harrison, an Independent ward councillor for the area, said: "I heard about this on Thursday evening that people were visiting the site.
"I was told there have been about 100 people down there and 20 to 25 lorries of hardstanding - the police are aware. They should be able to do something in terms of gatherings as the police did in Basildon town centre last week."
Mr Harrison said the council was constantly monitoring illegal development at traveller sites - even using drones to gather evidence from the sky.
He added: "We will be looking to get an injunction."
An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "The council is the lead agency on this incident with support from us."
A council spokeswoman said: "Basildon Council is taking all planning enforcement activity necessary following unlawful development taking place at Hovefields in Wickford.”