A huge clean up operation has been mounted to remove rubbish and building debris left behind by illegally camped travellers.

Brighton and Hove City Council says it may take as long as five days to properly clean up the mess at Green Ridge, Brighton.

Residents, backed by Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper and local councillors, are now calling for measures, such as wooden posts and gates, to prevent travellers returning to the site off the Dyke Road roundabout at Westdene.

At one point during the August Bank Holiday, more than 20 caravans and at least as many vehicles were parked on Green Ridge, which is open space land owned by the city council.

Rubbish was dumped at the site, much of it building rubble and garden rubbish left by travellers working in the Brighton area resurfacing driveways and doing gardening and tree work.

Some of the travellers have now left the area but one group has moved to another illegal encampment at the top of Wilson Avenue, near Brighton racecourse.

Rubbish is also accumulating at that site, despite it being near the public rubbish site at Sheepcote Valley.

The travellers have denied they are responsible for leaving the mess.

Terry Owen, 17, who owns one of the caravans which has now moved to Wilson Avenue, said: "We always pack up our rubbish in black plastic bags and take it to the local tip."

During the time the travellers were at Green Ridge, some nearby residents said they had been forced to leave their homes because they had felt so intimidated. A cafe also closed its doors.

Yesterday, rubbish was still scattered around the site, including dirty nappies and soiled toilet paper thrown into hedges.

Some caravan owners had packed their rubbish into black plastic bags and then left them in the hedges.

A four-foot pile of rubble is being cleared, as is garden rubbish, including sawn off branches.

The true extent of the debris and rubbish left behind was only revealed when the final caravans left on Tuesday.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "This area has been spoilt by the rubbish and litter which the travellers have strewn around. Some caravans have put their rubbish in black plastic bags but they have been throwing these bags into the hedges to be ripped open by foxes.

"I accept these travellers have got a way of life, but they are in Brighton and Hove purely to make money from the residents by doing driveway and gardening work.

"Lord Bassam, when he was leader of the council, gave an assurance that once the official travellers site at Horsdean was opened up, travellers would stick to that site. It has not happened.

"The official site has made the situation worse, because when caravans can't get in, they just move to the nearest available open space."

Councillor Carol Theobald, who, with her husband, Geoffrey, represents nearby Patcham on the city council, said: "We have been inundated with complaints about the travellers. I thought the new council leader, Ken Bodfish, might have done something about them and used the powers the council has to move them on sooner.

"Some of the caravans are modern and kept in very good condition. It seems they are able to keep their caravans nice but they don't care about the local environment.

"Wherever they go they create mess and someone will obviously have to clear up when they leave Wilson Avenue."