AFTER one of the biggest single traveller encampments was broken up by police on Wednesday, most of the group simply dispersed to the public spaces they had been moved from just days before. Meanwhile, a council-run transit site contained just one family. So what can be done to stop this merry-go-round routine?
ONE of the largest migrations of travelling families took place across Brighton on Wednesday evening as Sussex Police exercised its powers of eviction.
As yesterday unfolded, it became clear that most of the near-100 caravans pitched up in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb, had dispersed to other parts of the city.
The Argus counted 20 traveller vehicles and 31 caravans pitched up in Stanmer Park, Brighton, yesterday afternoon, with 24 caravans and 20 other vehicles heading to Preston Park. Travellers had been moved on from both of these sites within the past two weeks.
It is thought that another seven or eight caravans headed to Black Rock in Madeira Drive. Again, travellers had been moved on from this site less than three months ago.
Despite such a migration, it became clear that Brighton and Hove City Council’s Horsdean transit site contained just one caravan yesterday afternoon.
The site has space for 23 families, though the council told The Argus last night only ten of these pitches are available due to an issue with drainage.
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat said the council was working closely with the police to manage the situation.
He said: “We understand there are pressures across the South East from travellers becoming increasingly desperate to access a small number of sites and stopping places.
“As we have increased site protection this has resulted in dispersal to additional areas.”
But Deirdre Green, who has lived in Braypool Lane, near the Horsdean transit site, for 22 years, asked: “Why doesn’t the council march them out of town?”
She said: “We lived here before the lane was even built but we wouldn’t have bought the land for our house if we’d known what was going to happen.
“I think we are too lenient. If all travellers took their own mess with them it would be OK but some don’t.
“It seems like it is them and us but it doesn’t have to be like that.
“People are scared of travellers but I am not frightened.”
Residents on Wednesday night made a stand which saw Sussex Police move on travellers to prevent a breach of the peace.
Speaking on the Saltdean incident, Simon Kirby, the MP for Kemptown and Peacehaven, said: “It shouldn’t be left to residents to have to protect their valuable local green spaces.
“That this action was necessary is a sad indictment of Brighton and Hove City Council’s failure to adequately tackle this issue.
“I have raised the issue of unauthorised traveller encampments on a number of occasions and these all too frequent incursions are, to my mind, largely a result of the council’s apparent soft touch approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments across the city.”
PARK INFRINGEMENTS THE Wild Park migration saw 24 caravans head to Preston Park at 6.15pm on Wednesday – just two weeks after the council previously served travellers there with an eviction notice.
One man, who did not wish to be named but works nearby, saw the vehicles arriving while football teams and gym groups were busy using the park.
A spokesperson for the Friends Of Preston Park said: “It’s such a shame because the park was looking particularly lovely.
“What do we do? The council knows how strongly we feel about having our park taken over by travellers but we will be reiterating our feelings.
“We want the council, the courts and the police to act more quickly to evict them. It will still take time though.
“It seems that the only thing which will enable the police to evict immediately is a change in the law.”
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, went to see the situation in Preston Park yesterday and said she has urged the police to use their powers to evict travellers.
She said: “Constituents have raised their concerns with me, and I believe the travellers’ presence is causing a significant impact on the local community.
“There has been a problem of unauthorised traveller encampments in the city for many years, one that has been exacerbated by the repeal of laws which means that all local authorities have a statutory duty to provide authorised sites.
“The city is currently bearing more than its fair share of the responsibility.
“I will continue to urge the Government to act to change these laws.”
Dawn Barnett, the Conservative councillor for Hangleton and Knoll, was driving past Stanmer Park in Brighton yesterday morning and saw caravans inside.
Commenting on the issue of antisocial behaviour being the reason for evicting travellers from Wild Park, she said: “I feel they should have been escorted out of the city altogether.”
A Sussex Police spokesperson commented on the traveller movements, saying the large numbers involved created a risk to other parks and open areas from further trespass and that neighbouring authorities were made aware.
The statement went on: “Travellers were deterred from entering a site at Saltdean and moved on from Horsdean Park Recreation Ground. Groups eventually gained access to Black Rock, Stanmer Park and Preston Park where they currently remain.
“Sussex Police worked closely yesterday with Brighton and Hove City Council to manage a challenging issue and will continue to do so all the time that unauthorised encampments exist within the city.”
Inspector Paul Ransome, of the Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “There is always a risk in relation to the movement of such large numbers and steps were taken to mitigate those risks but unfortunately not all vulnerable sites can be completely protected.
“Sussex Police and the Council Traveller Liaison Team work closely together to manage such encampments throughout the year and we are looking at the best ways to do this which provides community reassurance and protects the rights of all of those involved.”