WATCH VIDEO: Footage of 'outrageous' illegal traveller site developed over weekend at Hovefields
THIS video shows travellers starting work on an "outrageous" huge new unauthorised caravan site on Saturday morning, as exclusively revealed by Essex News and Investigations.
Our exclusive footage shows hardcore, that was delivered in lorries from 6am on Saturday, being flattened out by a digger to make hardstandings on the green belt field off Hovefields Drive, Wickford.
Residents estimate the site has been divided into 29 indiividual pitches - two thirds of the size of the former Dale Farm development at nearby Crays Hill, which was demolished by the council in 2011.
Work carried on today, despite Basildon Council issuing a stop notice to halt the development on Sunday, according to residents, who have been left without power to their homes after the unauthorised work allegedly took out overhead power lines.
STOP NOTICE: Council officials talk to a group of men as police look on (EN&I)
Council leader Gavin Callaghan tweeted on Sunday: "Our officers have, this afternoon, been on site and issued a stop notice to the individuals illegally developing green belt land at Hovefields. We’re not messing about."
He earlier said: "I continue to be in communications with the Council’s CEO, Deputy CEO and Essex Police over the outrageous breach at Hovefields.
"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."
MISTY MORNING: Vehicles on site (above), digger at work (middle) and hardcore arriving (top) (EN&I)
A source, who did not want to be named, said: "The council served a stop notice with council officials and the head of planning, but they ignored the order and carried on working.
"There were seven caravans on the site today and two mobile homes.
"One got stuck in the mud, but they were digging it out. About six homes in the area have been left with no power."
OPEN ROAD: New roadway (above), an outbuilding is demolished (middle) and police on site (top) EN&I)
Basildon Council is due to go to court in the morning to try to secure an injunction against any further development, as if it is breached those responsible could be jailed.
Residents who live in the Hovefields area have been surrounded by unauthorised pitches for years, but many were cleared in 2010, and this is the largest single illegal development attempt so far.
Residents said there had been scores of lorries filled with hardcore arrive from 6am on Saturday, before they started creating a hard base.
LET'S WORK: Travellers get stuck in to the early-morning operation (EN&I)
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.
A settled resident said: "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."
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.”