A TRAVELLER family has been told they can continue living on an unauthorised site in Corringham until August 2013.

At their meeting last night, Thurrock Council's planning committee debated whether the family, who live in a mobile home at the end of Park Gate Road in Corringham, should be evicted or allowed to stay permanently.

The application to legalise the site was deferred in March because the committee was reluctant to follow officers advice and throw the family off the land.

Instead they asked officers to go away and investigate if there were any special circumstances that would allow the family, who have been living there since 2006, to stay.

Last night, officers said there wasn't, and the report to the committee warned that approving the site, which is on green belt land, "would set a very dangerous precedent that could readily be repeated elsewhere in the borough".

The site has been subject to enforcement notices since December 1995, and when the current owner bought the site a notice was in place saying it was not a designated traveller site.

Labour councillor Gerard Rice then came up with the idea to allow the family to stay until August 2013, when the council will be forced to find 87 more pitches for travellers in the borough, and look at whether or not to legalise the site then.

He said:" I would suggest that in this particular case that we give the family temporary permission.

"This would give the family asome finite time there."

Tory councillor Stephen Veryard agreed, he said: "I think we are in an awkward position. If they knew they had temporary permission for a year or so, I think it would give them peace of mind."

But independent councillor Barry Palmer thought the committee should just make a decision one way or the other.

He said: "At the end of the day, we are subjecting this family to a considerable amount of distress, I would think, in that we keep prolonging it."

Tory councilor Joy Redsell was in two minds about the application.

She said: " I agree with cllr Rice in principle, but I just feel that we are pushing this on and on and on.

"We've been given advice from officers which seems pretty clear to be honest.

"We are not standing up and being counted, and saying 'this is how it is'.

After more debate the committee agreed to allow the family to say on site until August 2013 when the council carries out its regional spacial strategy.

A caviat was put in so that the temporary permission cannot go past that date.