A BID to legalise a travellers site in Corringham has been dubbed a joke by Thurrock Council’s planning committee.

And the applicants certainly saw the funny side – as they laughed and joked in the public gallery while their application was branded “an attempt to string out the process”.

Plans for the site in Southend Road, next to Willow Cottage, were unanimously booted out by the committee who did not even debate the proposals.

An enforcement notice will now be served, but it is likely the family of travellers will appeal – dragging the process out for months.

The Ward family moved on to the plot of green belt land over the Easter weekend and have since developed it illegally.

An application was lodged in June for the site – which consists of four caravans, four utility blocks, fences, gates and three stables – to gain retrospective planning permission.

Wranglings between Thurrock Council and Essex County Council over whose responsibility the land was caused a delay in action, allowing the site to develop and an application be lodged.

The committee heard from Corringham and Fobbing ward councillor Andrew Roast, who said residents of Corringham and Fobbing are “deeply angered” by the travellers’ presence.

He said: “They have replaced grass with hardcore, erected fences, removed established vegetation, formed wide vehicle access from a busy main road, named their illegal plot Willow Stables and now Manor View.

“Their message to this council is ‘we are staying’. The message from this council must be ‘you are leaving’.”

There are five adults and six children, the oldest aged seven, living on the site.

The children attend Corringham Primary School and several members of the family have health issues which require regular trips to hospitals in Basildon and Romford.

A written statement submitted to the committee on behalf of the family said: “We are disappointed with the recommendation for refusal. We travel as a family group and had hoped to settle in Thurrock, but have been unable to find available pitches in the area.”

The family added that points of objection made by residents may be “incorrect”. They also said they would be prepared to make infrastructure contributions.

But committee member Cllr Phil Anderson said it was rare to see an application with so many reasons for refusal.

He added: “This application hasn’t been taken desperately seriously or in good faith. This was more an attempt to string out the process and is an abuse of those processes.”

After the meeting, two members of the Ward family and Gary Coxhall, their agent, declined to comment.