From the Billericay Gazette
RATS, foxes, human excrement and illegally-dumped rubbish are all in abundant supply at the former home of hundreds of Travellers.
Nearly eight months after Basildon council cleared Dale Farm in an operation that cost the authority £4.8 million, a Traveller campaigner has claimed the council could be forced to put back the tarmac its contractors dug up in October.
It is claimed that toxic waste has been found at the Crays Hill plot – including asbestos from when it operated as an unregulated landfill site from "at least the 1970s to 1994".
Dale Farm's former use as a scrapyard has been widely publicised, but less is known about it being used to dump waste.
Former landowner Ray Bocking was served with enforcement notices in 1994 by Basildon council over his use of the land as a scrapyard.
Mr Bocking appealed and in a report for the Planning Inspectorate in 1994, a planning inspector wrote that the western corner of Dale Farm was used for "skip storage and the tipping and storing of hardcore and metal waste…"
It is claimed that 100,000 cubic metres of waste was tipped by the council at Dale Farm.
The landfill area was subsequently levelled and covered in hardstanding by the council in 1995, in what Mr Bocking called an attempt to "destroy the evidence".
Having dug down to depths of eight feet in the aftermath of the eviction the council's contractors have, it is claimed, exposed substances including asbestos.
According to Traveller campaigner Stuart Hardwicke Carruthers, should the Environment Agency find the soil to be contaminated, it could leave the council facing legal action by the Travellers.
Mr Carruthers said: "[During the eviction] the council came on to the land on behalf of the Gypsies.
"If the Gypsies are told to re-cover the waste [with hardstanding] they can sue the council for negligently exposing a landfill site that the council itself established."
Mr Carruthers has written to the Environment Agency requesting a site closure plan for an "unregulated contaminated landfill site re-established by Basildon Borough Council".
Speaking to the Gazette, Mr Carruthers said: "Once you have an uncovered site you need consent to close, which comes from the Environment Agency."
The agency confirmed it is investigating reports of contamination at Dale Farm.
"The problem [council leader] Tony Ball faces is that having an unearthed landfill site devalues your property more than a Gypsy site," said Mr Carruthers.
"Everyone has their claims re-instigated because everyone living on Oak Road who had their house prices halved can now go to the council for having a landfill site at the bottom of the garden established without planning permission."
Len Gridley's home along Oak Road backs on to Dale Farm.
The 53-year-old is launching legal proceedings against the council over the devaluation of his property.
Mr Gridley, who has installed rat traps around his house to deal with an explosion in vermin following the eviction, said: "No one will put their house up for sale in Oak Road for the simple reason they will lose money. We have got to stay here.
"The council has put me in this prison, which is why I am going to fight them in the courts."
Illegally dumped rubbish and human excrement is abundant around the former illegal site, as travellers along the road do not have adequate toilet facilities.
Cess pits laid down by Travellers were also broken in the eviction. The result is an apparent explosion in rats, foxes and illnesses among the Traveller population.