Campaigners have won a victory in the fight to prevent a gipsy site being built near their homes.

Residents were celebrating last night after Conservative- run Hastings Borough Council rejected proposals to build a site for travellers in the town.

The decision was met with universal applause by hundreds of people in the audience at The Grove School in Darwell Close, St Leonards.

After the meeting, delighted campaigner Debbie Milton, of Shining Cliff, Hastings, said: "This is a great day for everyone.

"Nobody wanted a gipsy site in the town because we already suffer from poverty."

The council last month appointed a working group to report on three possible locations for a ten-pitch facility to house gipsy and traveller families for short periods.

The group recommended that the areas by Summerfield Leisure Centre off Bohemia Road, Hastings, and Sandrock Park, Hastings, were not suitable, and most members thought the playing field behind Bexhill Road in West St Leonard was inappropriate.

The working group reported that people living near all three sites were worried about crime, anti-social behaviour, a decrease in house prices and a negative impact on local business.

Since proposals to create a gipsy site were announced last summer, the council has received eight petitions signed by 3,074 people opposed to the plans - while locals claim not one person supports the plans. Jeremy Bunday spoke to the meeting on behalf of those living near the proposed Sandrock site who signed the petition.

He said: "Not a single comment was recorded from the community in favour of this site. Estate agents are predicting a 30 per cent drop in property value and house sales are already slowing."

Peter Oxley, speaking for the Bexhill Road community, said: "While we appreciate the plight of the travellers, their wellbeing shouldn't be placed higher than that of the residential community."

Opposition councillors were united in their objections to the proposed sites but agreed it was necessary to have a site somewhere in the area.

Every year Hastings experiences unauthorised gipsy encampments. Over 16 years there have been an average of ten every 12 months.

Labour councillor Jeremy Birch criticised the Tory cabinet for spending £35,000 on a consultation looking at unsuitable sites.

He said: "All political parties in East Sussex have accepted it is appropriate to have a gipsy site.

"Three sites were being consulted upon and whatever the result of the consultation they could never be used. Members of the public could well ask what it was all about."

The cabinet unanimously agreed both to consult with East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council about a site elsewhere.

Councillors also decided to ask MP Michael Foster to press the Government for an extension to the 2007 deadline to find a gipsy site without losing funding.