THURROCK Council has come under fire once more for failing to deal quickly enough with travellers settling on an illegal site.

Travellers began settling on green belt land at the end of Malvern Road, in Little Thurrock, in June, but told officers they were clearing the land.

Days later, a planning application was lodged for five caravan pitches and day rooms, after the group had been threatened with action.

Last Thursday, the council served a stop notice, forbidding any more development.

But the notice was only issued once the occupants had caused chaos having a mobile home delivered.

Little Thurrock Rectory ward councillor Rob Gledhill said: “In June I was told four families in caravans had pitched up.

“Officers who attended were told they were just there to clear the site but within days they had put in a planning application. Despite the application not being completed in time, the caravans were allowed to stay.

"Residents and I are angry that, despite being given more time to submit valid plans than most applicants, it wasn’t until they got wind of enforcement action that their application was finally complete.

“Since then they have changed their plans, had a mobile home delivered, cut back trees and shrubs and started other preparation works so clearly they do not intend to abide by the rules.

“It was good to see the council acted so quickly on Thursday serving the stop notice in just a few hours. However, had they had acted faster when the original application was not completed in time residents would not have this uncertainty.”

A council spokesman said: “The council can and does take swift court action to deal with breaches of planning control.

“However, the council does have to follow national planning laws and procedures. That is the case in this instance, and the council is doing all it can within the law to resolve the situation.”

The authority has been criticised for failing to take quick action at another travellers’ site in Southend Road, Corringham.