Spend on planned site gets go ahead

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A PLANNED site for gypsies and travellers should reduce illegal camps around Bognor Regis.

Arun District Council’s cabinet agreed on Monday to put up to £165,000 towards the proposed location of nine pitches at Westhampnett.

The money is likely to be spent in the forthcoming year if the transit site goes ahead. Chichester District Council agreed to the idea on Tuesday but has to give planning approval against protests from villagers.

Cabinet members were told by head of policy and partnerships Paul Askew that the creation of the site in the summer of 2015 was expected to cut the occasions travellers stayed on land in the Arun district.

Popular locations for encampments include the London Road coach park in Bognor town centre and Felpham’s King George V playing field.

He said the transit site’s opening by a consortium of all district and borough councils in the county would enable the police to use the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to close such illegal camps.

“Currently, there are no publicly-owned transit sites in West Sussex and, therefore, the police cannot use this power.

“If such a site was available, the police could direct the unathorised travellers to the site,” he said.

“If they do not leave when directed, or they return to the county within three months of being directed, they would be committing a criminal offence.”

The absence of a transit site had led to 24 unauthorised camps in the Arun district in the past 18 months, he told councillors.

Since last April, there have been 13 in the district compared to six across the whole of East Sussex where a publicly-owned transit site was available.

Cllr Paul Dendle, Arun’s cabinet member for environmental services, said: “I welcome this plan. It is a good common sense solution to the problem.

“I’ve seen the Chichester Observer bills about the reaction of Westhampnett to the proposals. Nobody wants to live next to a travellers’ site.

“Hopefully, the resistance can be overcome but I well understand people’s concerns about having a travellers’ site near them.”

But he and the other cabinet members called for the police to fully use their powers once the transit site was available.

Nigel Croad, an assistant director of the council, said he expected the police to confirm their commitment to using their powers in writing to the county council.

The cabinet also agreed to spend a maximum of £15,000 a year sharing the transit site’s running costs.