Complaint may delay travellers’ site action

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A council fighting to clear the UK’s largest travellers’ site says it will decide whether to investigate allegations of mismanagement within 10 days.

Basildon Council has received a complaint relating to the planned clearance of 54 unauthorised plots on Dale Farm in Essex.

The complaint, by a Dale Farm supporter, alleges that senior officials misled the council on its ability to clear the entire site legally.

Basildon Council’s chief executive, Bala Mahendran, acknowledged the complaint.

He said: “Given the potential serious nature of the issues raised, and in accordance with the council’s whistle blowing policy, I will decide on the most appropriate course of action in relation to these matters.

“My intention is to respond within 10 working days, and according to due process.

“The issue will be dealt with as any other complaint or allegation and in line with our whistle blowing policy.”

The complaint was lodged by Stuart Hardwicke Carruthers, who is advising the residents’ legal team.

He claims mismanagement of the site by the council dates back 30 years to when hardcore and clay was dumped on the green belt site, meaning later planning applications may have been based on incomplete information.

Mr Hardwicke Carruthers also says council officials falsely advised that the site could be cleared in its entirety.

One of the current High Court battles rests on the claim that the council would “over-enforce” enforcement notices if it cleared all of the unauthorised plots.

Bailiffs employed by the Essex council had been due to begin clearing 54 unauthorised plots last month following a decade-long row over planning permission.

The latest row comes as council leader Tony Ball hinted he may resign if the travellers are not evicted by Christmas.

He said someone would have to be accountable if the battle to clear the illegal site of up to 80 families dragged on for several weeks.

He added: “This is not about personality, and there are 28 other councillors who would do this instead of me, but as leader I am accountable.”