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VOTE: Clean-up bill after travellers move in to Chichester

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A charity that owns a playing field faces a £1,000 clear-up bill after travellers damaged turf and left behind human waste, rubble and rubbish.

An illegal encampment was evicted from Fishbourne Playing Fields last week, when the travellers made their way to Oaklands Park in Chichester.

But they were quickly removed by police so that Sunday’s Get Active festival could go ahead undisturbed.

The damage has delayed the opening of a new children’s play area in Fishbourne.

Jim Arnold, chairman of the Fishbourne Playing Fields Association, said: “The travellers left a huge mound of rubble in the field, as well as a caravan, and bags of rubbish. Police said they can’t help us clean up the land because it is a civil matter, so now we will have to spend a further £1,000 on top of the £2,000 we spent on getting them evicted.

“We had also laid down new turf for the play area we were due to open, but that has been walked all over and rolled up, so we will have to delay the opening so we can repair the damage.”

Human faeces and toilet tissue was also left on the croquet pitch at the playing fields after the travellers had settled there for seven days.

Chairman of Fishbourne Parish Council Geoff Hand, said: “Damage was done to the security fencing and to the new turf around the play area which was due to be opened on September 20. Unfortunately, it will now have to be delayed for at least a fortnight while repairs are undertaken. This is another additional cost the project will have to bear. We are very sorry for the young people who have been patiently waiting to use the new equipment and now have a further wait because of this mindless behaviour.”

Moved on

The travellers moved on Friday on to Oaklands Park, which is owned by Chichester District Council, but the police managed to remove them the same evening under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. They have also used this law once before when removing travellers from the Roman Amphitheatre site recently.

This comes after a parish council complained the police were not using their powers to move on travellers from private and parish-owned land, but the relevant laws were used in the case of Oaklands Park.

Sergeant Alan Fenn said last Friday: “The travellers had moved on to the site this morning but after speaking to them this afternoon they agreed to move on again.

“This was reinforced by the use of the Section 61 power to ensure the festival could be held on the playing fields tomorrow.

“The travellers left peacefully and the likelihood of any disruption to the event has now been minimised.”

The group then moved into land in Bosham at 7.30pm on Friday (September 7) and was last camped in a field off the A259, near the old Brinkman Farm turn-off. Police were in attendance.

Local home-owners told The Observer they had taken measures to secure their land as more travellers arrived over the weekend.

A spokesperson for Chichester District Council, which owns Oaklands Park, said: “A group of travellers moved on to our land at Oaklands Park, Chichester last Friday.

“We worked closely with the police and asked the travellers to move on so that the Get Active Festival on Sunday (September 9) would not be disrupted. The police used their powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to make sure the event could take place.”

Specific criteria

Chichester Police Inspector Will Rolls said: “There are very specific criteria as to when our powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act can be evoked. When it is appropriate, and if the criteria are met, then we will seek to use them. This is not an automatic power and can only be used in specific circumstances. At the location in Fishbourne, the relevant criteria were not met and therefore our powers under this legislation could not be used, it is then for the landowner to go through the court process to remove travellers from a site. We carry out an assessment at every location travellers move to and, when the travellers moved to the site in Oaklands Park, the relevant criteria were met and therefore we used our powers to move them on.

What do you think?

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