An MP has accused a council of ignoring an unauthorised travellers' camp for more than 18 months.

Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, said East Sussex County Council had failed in its duty by not taking action over the encampment at Glynde.

Mr Baker attended a recent meeting to discuss concerns about the site south of the Glynde turn-off from the A27.

Also present were Lewes District Council, Beddingham and Glynde Parish Council and Sussex Police. Mr Baker said East Sussex County Council were invited but did not turn up.

A county council spokesman said it was aware of the concerns.

Mr Baker said: "I find it highly regrettable and unacceptable that county council officers refused to come to the public meeting. This is in stark contrast to Sussex Police and Lewes District Council, who did send senior representatives, who took the time to listen to the views and concerns of Glynde residents.

"People in Glynde and Beddingham have been very patient with the encampment and have reacted, in my view, in a sober and responsible way. Some feel that this mature response has been exploited by the county council who appear to have concluded that the urgency of moving the encampment on is lessened.

"This is not the case and it is now a matter of some urgency that the county council takes effective action to find an alternative location."

Residents agreed to report any problems to police, who said they would increase their presence.

The district council promised to monitor the site under the Environmental Protection Act.

Mr Baker agreed to arrange a meeting with senior East Sussex County Council officers.

Ralph Taylor, district councillor for Seaford, said: "It is a difficult situation and everybody's interests have got to be balanced.

"I believe it would have been helpful for the county council to be at the meeting so they could explain their position and listen to what residents had to say."

Andy Small, chairman of Beddingham and Glynde Parish Council, said: "I have raised questions as the district councillor for Glynde, why the local authorities aren't doing anything to relocate the persons that are living there."

A county council spokesman said: "We have kept Mr Baker informed and he should know that, working closely with the police and Lewes District Council, we are committed to ending this unauthorised encampment as soon as possible.

"We do understand the frustration of residents that a solution has yet to be found but in the context of a local and national shortage of appropriate sites, it is a complex situation to resolve. We are doing all we can to find a solution within the law.

"The county council declined the invitation to attend a large public meeting because, through regular and ongoing contact, we are already very clear about local residents' views and expectations. We don't believe that a large meeting about a very contentious issue, which concentrates on one part of the community, results in constructive dialogue."

There are about 35 travellers, many of them children, living in nine vans. There are also dogs, chickens, ducks and ferrets. The west access point has been blocked by the county council.

Romany gypsy John William King, 35, said: "We have just managed to get the children into a school. They have got friends. It would be wrong for them to up and move us because we have got nowhere else to go."

Mr King has been on-site for two years. He said the families would love to have access to their own plot of land with running water or an official site, but there are none available.