PEOPLE will only be forced to sell their land for use as a traveller site “as a last resort”, it has been claimed.
The Government has told the district council it must find space for an additional 49 pitches by 2012, with more to follow.
Alarm is growing after the Guardian’s revelation that some of the 25 sites earmarked for gypsies and travellers could be compulsorily purchased “as a matter of last resort” by Epping Forest
A spokeswoman for the department for Communities and Local Government said it was entirely down to the local authority whether compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) should be made or not.
She added: “We are not forcing anyone to sell their land. There is no Government requirement for local authorities to compulsorily purchase land for gypsy or traveller sites.
“If a local authority wished to compulsorily purchase any land, it would have to demonstrate that there is a compelling case in the public interest before a CPO can be confirmed. Councils should
only use CPO powers as a last resort where it can justify why it proposes to use such powers. Landowners would be entitled to disturbance and loss payments.
“Any proposals for new sites are subject to full public consultation and independent examination before planning permission could be given.”
Terrence Ruddigan, 73, owns Wood Green Poultry Farm, in Ongar Road, Abridge, which council officers have said could potentially hold four traveller pitches.
He said: “I’m terribly worried. It’s frightened the life out of me. My wife has been ill the whole while. She keeps breaking into tears – she can’t believe this is happening.”
Mr Ruddigan said he was still concerned he might be forced to give up his land.
He added: “The whole thing is so unusual. How long ago was it all decided? It’s just a lottery.”
Councils across the district have been consulting their members over the proposals for extra sites and Chigwell Parish Council has debated plans to place two traveller pitches at the site near
Victory Hall, in Hainault Road. It is due to inform the district council of its response next week.
Parish councillor John Knapman, who is also district council chairman, said: “I fully expect the council will be putting up strong reasons why it is a totally unacceptable site. No-one in their
right mind would expect to put a site there.”
A spokesman for the district council said: “The members would be extremely reluctant to use compulsory purchase orders, and they would ask many, many questions before ever going down that route.
Although the council has powers of CPO the question is whether it would use its powers in these kinds of circumstances, and it would be very unlikely.”