Dale Farm clearance costing £7m
The cost of clearing the UK's largest illegal travellers' site has been confirmed as £7 million - but the council in charge has warned a fresh enforcement action remains likely.
Basildon Council said it spent £4.8 million on last October's operation to remove families living at Dale Farm, Essex. This includes £1.6 million spent by the council after the initial attempt in September was delayed by a High Court injunction.
The bill still came in under the authority's £8 million budget, which included a contingency fund. Essex Police has already announced that it spent £2.4 million on its part in the operation.
Despite coming in under budget, council leader Tony Ball admitted: "The ongoing saga around Dale Farm continues to sadden and annoy me in equal measure.
"It gives me some degree of satisfaction that the operation was carried out under budget and this is thanks to the hard work and professionalism of council staff, our contractors and our partners in the fire, health and police services.
"I was, however, and remain, annoyed that £1.6 million was added to our final bill by the delay and legal costs incurred between September and October when the travellers launched their last-minute legal challenge against the council's right to clear Dale Farm."
The clearance, which resulted in violent clashes, followed a decade-long row over authorised plots on the six-acre site. Mr Ball said that, other than four plots which are allowed to remain, the site had been cleared, but he said travellers living on a neighbouring site were continuing to flout the law.
"There are currently a number of caravans parked on the road leading up to the old Dale Farm. These are in breach of planning regulations and should not be there," he said.
"There are also a significant number of caravans crowded on to the legal Oak Lane pitches. On approximately half of these pitches this is being exceeded, again in flagrant disregard of the conditions attached to the planning permission."
Mr Ball said the overcrowding was dangerous and a breach of planning conditions: "The situation at Oak Lane is unacceptable and this council will not tolerate it." He added: "We are working to a clear timetable and time for those travellers illegally occupying this part of Cray's Hill is running out."