TRAVELLERS hoping to move back on to the illegal Dale Farm site have given up their battle for planning permission.

The owners of three pitches, which could not be cleared during last October’s £8million eviction because of legal technicalities, had hoped a Government planning inspector would grant permission for them to return.

However, it’s emerged members of the Flynn and McCarthy families, who own the plots, have withdrawn their appeals ahead of an inquiry due to begin in the Basildon Centre today.

The hearing will still go ahead, however. Instead of battling to live on the site in Crays Hill, the families will argue against council enforcement orders for them to remove the caravans and buildings they left behind.

The families claim it is not possible, or safe, for them to carry out the work to clear the plots, due to concerns the eviction operation may have exposed asbestos and other pollutants.

The Environment Agency carried out tests on the land last month in response to the fears and has yet to make public the report on its findings.

The families will also argue that earth and rubble mounds left by council bailiffs around Dale Farm to prevent reoccupation mean it is physically impossible for them to get vehicles on to clear the pitches.

Campaigner Stuart Hardwick-Carruthers, who is representing the families at the appeal, said: “There are two issues. Until the results of the Environment Agency tests are known, it is not safe for anyone to go on to the site.

“Secondly, the council has not explained how anyone could get any vehicles on to carry out the work while the earth bunds prevent any access.”

Basildon Council will argue there is no evidence the land has been left contaminated by the eviction and the travellers should clear up their mess.

Neil Costen, council head of enforcement, says in his statement to the inquiry the travellers have provided no proof to the inquiry that it would be physically impossible to remove the structures.

He adds: “The appellants have not demonstrated in any evidence that there is contamination on the land which prevents compliance with the notices.”