Travellers: the Truth

Full Marks to Jon Austin of the Echo for his special investigation into the Traveller’s site at Crays Hill. Although it’s outside our district – in Basildon – we are sure it will interest many of our residents.

Here’s an extract:

Travellers fighting to stay at Crays Hill because they have “nowhere else to go” can today be exposed as shrewd, money-making developers.

Next month, Dale Farm could be legalised by the Government when it announces its final decision following last summer’s public inquiry.

If all 52 illegal plots gain planning permission, each will be worth around ?150,000. The camp would therefore be worth ?7.8million to plot owners.

Dale Farm originally cost traveller John Sheridan ?122,000, which he paid in cash in 2002. The site was then split up and sold to other travellers for a total of around ?600,000.

The Echo revealed last Wednesday that former traveller homes at Hovefields Avenue, Wickford, which started life as cheap green belt plots, are currently on the market for ?500,000.

Now we can exclusively reveal members of the Sheridan clan living illegally at Dale Farm are currently trying to turn farmland into legal homes at the Smithy Fen camp, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire.

Crays Hill travellers have managed to pay thousands of pounds in hard cash for land at Smithy Fen and other parts of the south east, including Hertfordshire and another part of Essex, Stapleford Tawney.

Huge profits will be possible if travellers can sell illegal plots bought for as little ?2,000 once they gain planning permission.

  • “Although it’s outside our district … we are sure it will interest many of our residents.”

    I’m intrigued. Why do you think that of all the things happening outside Rochford District this will interest us most?

    Sid Cumberland

  • Well, just as the most interesting parliamentary election contest is to the north of us in Chelmsford, probably the most interesting planning issue is to the west of us at Crays Hill.

    It won’t be important for all residents. But the occupation of Green Belt sites by travellers is a significant issue for people living in rural parts of our district. When plots of land have gone up for sale, residents have been extremely anxious about who is going to buy them (for example the land at the top end of Ferndale Road in Rayleigh was sold awhile ago and residents were concerned then.)

    Also, there’s an important question of fairness. When you own a cottage in the Green Belt and can’t get planning permission to give a teenage child their own bedroom (a real example) , you are going to be aggrieved if you see someone occupying a site down the road without planning permission. The whole planning system is a set of policies – you could say doctrines – that must be applied fairly to all.

    It’s also nice to see the Echo doing some detailed investigative work rather than the routine ‘dog bites man’ stuff. They’ve shown that there were things worth investigating, and they may just influence government policy on this subject.

  • We too have a “travellers” problem in Rawreth. A group came, set up over night and applied for retrospective planning permission which was refused. They have appealed to what was “The Secretary of State” and were refused again.They were told to leave the site a very long time ago but we are still waiting for them to do so. Doesn’t do our house prices any good!