Essex: Environment Agency to probe alleged contamination at Dale Farm

ENVIRONMENTAL experts have been drafted in to probe alleged contamination at Dale Farm in Essex.

The site was the UK’s largest illegal travellers’ settlement before a major operation cleared it last year.

Following the evictions some travellers moved to the neighbouring legal site at Oak Lane, while others settled on the approach road.

The Environment Agency said it was now sending in a team of consultants to assess the cleared, unauthorised part of Dale Farm.

A spokeswoman confirmed the probe had been prompted by Dale Farm Residents Association raising contamination concerns. But she added it was unclear what the nature of the alleged contamination was at this stage.

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She added: “We will be gathering samples to help us understand whether there is contamination, and how it might affect the landowners and occupiers of the site and people in the surrounding area. Once we have the report, we will know more about what needs to happen next.

“If the agency finds contamination that may pose a threat to human health and needs immediate action they will work with the relevant authorities to deal with it as quickly as possible.

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“If any damage is found action may be required by whoever caused it. The cost of this investigation can be recovered from whoever caused any damage if this can be legally proved.”

Gerry Levelle, Basildon Council’s head of environment and community services, said: “The council has been aware of the Environment Agency’s plans to investigate the site for some time and has been supplying them with information to assist their consultants.

“The council will need to review and assess the detailed findings of the report before further commenting on the matter.”

Work to shut down illegal settlements on Dale Farm resulted in violent clashes in October.

About 80 families were evicted from the six-acre site after a decade-long planning row over the settlement, some of which was on green belt land.

Basildon Council spent �4.8million on the clearance and said �1.6m was used to contest a series of injunctions brought by the travellers.

Meanwhile Essex Police spent more than �2.3m on the clearances, covering its planning, operations and activities.

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