COUNCILLORS voted to use the ‘only weapon’ in their armoury in a bid to stop more illegal encampments in the district.
Almost unanimous approval was given for a travellers’ transit site at the Westhampnett depot at a full council meeting on Tuesday (December 17), despite residents handing in a 352-strong petition against it before the meeting.
Speaking afterwards, chairman of Westhampnett Parish Council Bob Holman said: “It’s no more than we expected really. We’re very disappointed.
“The only thing that’s left to us now is to work with the district council and West Sussex County Council and make sure this is as water tight as we possibly can and the best for residents of Westhampnett.”
Speaking during the debate, Westhampnett’s district councillor Andrew Smith described the village as one of the fastest growing in the area, due to increases in housing.
Following a county-wide consultation, no other districts or boroughs put forward any possible locations for a transit site.
“What I find difficult and I’m sure the public in Westhampnett find difficult, is that across the whole of West Sussex, the Westhampnett depot is the only location,” said Cllr Smith.
However, he acknowledged the benefits of the site allowing the police to use the Criminal Justice Act to move on illegal encampments.
Cllr Myles Cullen said: “The transit site is not necessarily a panacea but it is the only weapon within our armoury at present to diminish the tremendous degradation of our countryside.”
If travellers refuse to go to the transit site, they will be made to leave the county.
Cllr Josef Ransley said: “In some ways it seems that we are passing the problem further down the line but that is the world we live in.”
An application will now be made to the district council’s planning department for planning permission.
The council voted unanimously in favour of the site, with the majority voting in favour of it being built at the depot.
Only Cllr Smith and Cllr Anne Scicluna voted against it, with members of the planning committee abstaining.