Police criticised over response to travellers in Chichester

editorial image

THE police response to invasions by travellers of land in the Chichester district faced criticism at a district council meeting.

Cllr Quentin Cox said the response was ‘equivocal to say the least’.

“It seems strange to me that even if people cannot be moved on, there is still no excuse over criminal damage,” he said.

“If there is criminal damage, then the police should act.”

Chairman Peter Clementson said, from the district council’s point of view, things were being done.

However, the police said they would not move people on unless they had somewhere to move them on to.

“Until this council is in a position to offer them sites, which is part of the structure plan, we are remiss in that respect,” he added.

Cllr Rob Hayes said Southbourne recently had two lots of travellers – once at the Bourne School and then at the recreation ground.

“In between times, they created even more havoc elsewhere,” he said.

Southbourne had to face the cost of taking the travellers to court twice and also faced the cost of clearing up and of repairs, particularly at the recreation ground where the area behind the pavilion was used as a toilet.

“We should ask the police to be a little more responsive,” said Cllr Hayes.

Environment director Steve Carvell said there was a significant issue in terms of the provision of adequate and appropriate sites for the travelling community.

“We are on something of a back foot in terms of the level of provision in this district, which doesn’t help,” he added.

Paul Over, executive director of support services and the economy, said, in terms of the council’s own land, they moved as quickly as the law enabled them to.

“We have to be careful, and have to follow procedure, because the police will not direct travellers to a site where one does not exist,” he said, adding they had to go through a process which involved going to court, and they did this as expeditiously as possible.

“The process we have to go through generally takes about five to seven days to complete,” Mr Over explained. The district council did not have a duty to pursue this on behalf of parishes, but did give advice.