A SMALL village is in lockdown tonight after a suspected explosive device was found in a main square.

Shops and flats in Lintot Square in Southwater, near Horsham, were evacuated mid-morning as police brought in sniffer dogs to deal with a suspicious device.

The object was discovered at 9am, with police cordoning off the area at around 11am.

The only town centre businesses left open were the Co-op and the Lintot pub as police took no chances.

An eyewitness, who preferred not to be named, said: “It was a bit scary to say the least.

“To think that something’s amiss in sleepy old Southwater is quite frightening.

“It’s quite unusual to even see a copper around here, so it would be nice for the police to tell us what’s going on.

“They’ve cordoned off an expansive area in the town centre, so something must be wrong. There will be a big loss of trade because of this.”

Early this evening, Co-op manager Simon Ianson told The Argus: “The police are still out there, but we haven’t heard anything.

“This isn’t really the sort of place where these things happen.”

Another tradesman, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed sniffer dogs were on their way.

A police spokesman said: “Shortly before 9am on Friday, police officers visiting an address in Fairbank Road, Southwater, Horsham, noticed a suspicious device which they were concerned might be an explosive.

“On the advice of military explosive ordnance experts attending from Aldershot, a 100-metre safety cordon has been created around the flat.

“Nearby properties,including some shops, have been evacuated until the item can be checked.

Horsham District Council has set up a rest centre at Southwater Leisure Centre in Pevensey Road tonight, with residents still unable to get back into their flats.

A council spokeswoman said: “Police are still at a property in Fairbank Road, Southwater after a suspicious device was found on Friday morning. No arrests have been made at this stage.

“A 100-metre safety cordon was created around the flat with nearby properties, including some shops, evacuated.

“Officers and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team remained at the property at 5pm while searches continue. Those people who have been evacuated are thanked for their patience while the premise is searched and is established to be safe.

“A rest centre has been set up at Southwater Leisure Centre, Pevensey Road for those affected by the incident that will include warm drinks, sleeping bags and blankets for those who may need them.”