POLICE were called in to evict dozens of travellers parked on Hove Lawns three days after they arrived.

Five officers and two Police Community Support Officers knocked on caravan doors yesterday and told the occupants to move on.

Sussex Police previously said they did not have powers to forcibly remove the travellers even though the lawns are a protected space.

But yesterday they used trespassing laws to expel the caravans.

The travellers arrived on Saturday. Initial reports estimated there were at least 50 vehicles on the lawns.

One traveller said the group had come to Brighton for a funeral.

Residents complained about litter and disruption on the seafront and many asked why no action was taken over the weekend.

One man said: “This is a disgrace. This is supposed to be somewhere for people to relax and play.”

Yesterday morning, former police chief Kevin Moore waded into the debate, saying he was “incandescent with rage” after Sussex Police said it could do nothing about the camp.

He said: “It’s one of the most important parts of the city and it is being defaced.

“They are sticking two fingers up at the law and a strong approach needs to be taken by police to move them on.”

Traveller Mick McPhee said: “It makes me feel upset. We’re not causing a hassle – the kids are behaving themselves.”

“We’re moved off from one site or another almost every day. We keep moving.

“When we’re kicked off here we’ll head back up to Wales.”

The charity Friends, Families and Travellers, which investigates unfair treatment of travellers, has sent welfare officers to the site.

They are seeking to protect the travellers’ right to a nomadic life.

Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council issued a joint statement saying: “The council and the police have been working together to take action following a group of approximately 50 vehicles trespassing on Hove Lawn at the weekend.

“The police are now moving the travellers and vehicles using powers under S61 of the Police and Criminal Justice Act.

“Vehicle owners were spoken to by representatives from the police and the council on Sunday morning, soon after the group arrived.

“The council informed the owners they were trespassing on council land and asked for the vehicles to be moved. Today the police and council have visited again to carry out welfare checks on the occupants of the vehicles, as is required by Home Office guidance before enforcement action can be taken.

“Those checks have been complete. The police will use their powers to move the vehicles from Hove Lawns today.

“We understand there are concerns in the local community but there is a process which has to be followed by law.”

The council also said it would be using additional powers to evict rough sleepers on Hove Lawns.

A council spokeswoman said: “In a separate move, the council was in court this morning to seek the right to move tents from Hove Lawns.

“The judge approved eviction action. The court ordered that the tent occupants must move by Thursday or eviction will take place.

“Prior to this action, outreach workers have offered support and advice to people staying on Hove Lawns to look at better accommodation options, either in or outside the city.

“Outreach workers are not involved with enforcement action and continue to be available to provide help to those willing to engage.

“Enforcement notices were issued to the tent occupants in recent weeks stating they were not allowed to camp in the area but the tents have remained on the lawns.

“As a result the council started court proceedings, which has resulted in today’s ruling.”

Only one member of the original group who first pitched up on the Lawns is still at the site.

Chris McClusky, 40, has been camping on the lawns on and off since June.

He said: “We’ve got no problems with the travellers. Everyone is respectful. I don’t see how anyone could be so against others being here. We’re just people, amongst other people. Why should it be an issue?

“They don’t like looking out of the window at us, and they’re probably worried about their property prices. But if there were other places for us, we’d go there.

“Society isn’t giving people a chance in this area.”