SHOP owners and dog walkers lived in fear for almost a week after a convoy of travellers camped near the seafront.

Nick Davies, 60, owner of Spitfire Cafe in Barford Court, Kingsway, Hove, said he had sleepless nights because he was constantly harassed and intimidated by travellers.

Fifteen trailers parked on Hove Lawns next to the King Alfred Leisure Centre last Thursday.

However, Brighton and Hove City Council moved them off the site yesterday morning.

Mr Davies said the travellers affected his business because customers were too afraid to go to his shop.

He said: “We experienced harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse and attempted theft.

“Around 15 kids, aged between five to 17, were standing by the shop and tried to steal our products.

“They all asked me, at the same time, how much this and that cost.

“Then they would put down 50 pence and ask if they could buy a an ice cream.

“It’s a distraction theft strategy. Some of them rode bikes and they cycle at such a dangerous pace it could have seriously hurt someone.

“They shouted at my wife and I and they also used the ‘f’ word.

“We lost business because customers are too terrified to come to the cafe.

“We had to close early on Sunday because of them.

“We’ve had several sleepless nights because we were afraid they would damage our shop.

“They urinated on our front and back doors. Even when we poured bleach and hot water in the areas the smell remains.

“A couple of kids even approached people and pretended to collect money for charity.

“When the travellers left, there was a trail of mess on the lawn. Rubbish bags, food, beer cans, used nappies, tent pegs and gas canisters were strewn all over the site.”

Mr Davies said since he bought the cafe last June, he has seen the travellers pitch up on the same site five times.

He added: “We’re absolutely terrified.

“Last year they stole one of my staff member’s bike lights.

“The council needs to build steel bollards to stop them coming in.

“They come every summer, usually in June and August.”

Dog walker Kevin Stickings, 45, from Brighton, said he had to avoid the Lawns because of the travellers.

He said: “I walk my dog here every day, but I had to change route because the travellers are quite aggressive.

“I have a small dog and some of them own big, aggressive dogs.

“Nearby businesses suffer because customers are frightened of the group.

“They come here every summer, especially in June and the August bank holiday.

“I notice they often arrive on Thursdays.

“If they are discovered by the council on the Friday, they can’t really take action immediately because no one works on the weekend.

“So the travellers earn themselves a few more days. Usually they leave a mess behind and it’s just really sad.”

The mess was cleared up by pupils from St Christopher’s School in Hove.

A school spokesman said: “We cleared up the mess on Hove Lawns not specifically because of the travellers but pupils just want to keep our seafront clean.”

A council spokesman said: “The encampment at Hove Lawns was vacated voluntarily yesterday morning after being warned yesterday that fixed penalty notices would be served today if they remained on the land.

“The council is exploring options to improve the security of the land.”