A growing group of travellers has set up an illegal encampment on Southbourne recreation ground, adjacent to Bourne Community College, much to the displeasure of village residents.
The group, which began to arrive in the evening of Friday, September 14, is believed to be the group evicted from Bosham last week, and from Oaklands Park in Chichester the week before to allow the Get Active festival to go ahead undisturbed.
Southbourne parish council is at present taking steps to move the travellers from the recreation ground, by obtaining a court order, despite the substantial cost.
Mark Everson, vice-chairman of Southbourne parish council, told the Observer: “I am really concerned about this.
“These particular travellers arrived on Friday last week, they broke in to the field, lifted off the gate and set up camp.
“The numbers at the camp also seem to be growing.
“While I do sympathise with the group, they have no real right to be setting up camp on this land. I have nothing against travellers themselves, but people who flout the law and cause trouble for councils.
“While they have a place in society, these people seem to be acting like they are a law unto themselves, and they think they are above the law.
“Why do they get away with it? That is what people really object to.”
“It is going to cost the parish council about £1,000 to get the court order to move the travellers off this land.
“The police have been as helpful as they can be but they can’t do anything really without a court order unless the law is changed.”
The group has previously caused around £1,000 worth of damage on Fishbourne playing field, where they left rubble, rubbish and human waste, before moving to Oaklands Park in Chichester where the police managed to remove them the same evening under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
However, 97 per cent of the 60 Observer readers who voted in an online poll said police powers to move travellers on should be strengthened.
Commenting on the story on www.chichester.co.uk, Gill2781, wrote: “I do think the police need to be able to be more active in moving the travellers on.
“They do not respect either the land or the landowners.”
Parish councils have also complained that the police have not been not using their powers to move on travellers from private and parish-owned land.
Dawn Scott, a Bosham resident, said: “It appears that even if you legally own and maintain a piece of land, travellers have the ‘right’ to gain entry, occupy it without permission and abandon their rubbish.
“The only ‘right’ the landowner has is to pay the costs for their eviction, clean up their waste and mend the damage.
“Whether it is farm land or a recreational field, the law should support the landowners and allow instant removal.
“We should not have to rely on unsightly barricades to protect these areas.”
The police have stated that there are very specific criteria as to when their powers under Section 61 can be evoked, and this power is not automatic.
If these criteria are not met, it falls to the landowner to go through the court process to remove travellers from a site.
When contacted by the Observer, Sussex Police said they were unaware of any reports of travellers in the Southbourne area.