VILLAGERS are refusing to take a new traveller ‘invasion’ lying down, employing drastic tactics to protect their recreation ground.
Giant straw bales were used to barricade the playing fields this week, with residents and parish councillors setting up a 24-hour watch.
Vice-chairman Brian Wood said the council had been left with ‘no option’ other than taking matters into its own hands.
“It would appear the travelling community have much legality on their side, which we, the residents, do not have,” he said.
For the third time in as many months, travellers chose to pitch in Tangmere last Wednesday (July 10) as around 40 people arrived on the Apron, owned by West Sussex County Council.
The county council obtained an eviction order at the start of this week, however, Tangmere Parish Council and residents feared the group would simply move on to the recreation ground.
Earlier this year, a group evicted from the recreation ground moved on to the Apron – as the parish council had predicted it would.
“Both these incursions to the Apron could have been easily avoided if West Sussex County Council had chosen to take the initiative to secure the entrance to the site, an entrance that has been left unprotected for months,” said Mr Wood.
He said firefighters had been called to the Apron at the weekend as large piles of rubbish were burned and the watchtower, a listed building, was being used as a toilet.
As the deadline for eviction loomed on Tuesday (July 16), villagers took up position around the recreation ground.
They were tasked with watching and reporting any activity in the area and, where appropriate, calling 999 for ‘immediate backup’.
When the Observer spoke to Mr Wood yesterday morning he said: “We still have more than two hours before the final eviction takes place, we have had patrols out since 4pm on Tuesday.
“This has been, and still is, a very traumatic time for Tangmere, plus what is next?
“Which group will arrive over the coming weeks?”
Tangmere Parish Council is now requesting the county council takes ‘immediate action’ to secure the Apron and is also asking Sussex Police to review its current policy on travellers.
May’s invasion by travellers had already led to a complaint by Tangmere Parish Council before this week’s events.
In a letter to West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith, the council said there was ‘considerable disappointment’ over a lack of co-ordination.
Concerns were also raised about the fact a court eviction notice was obtained on the Friday but police and council officers made a joint decision not to serve it until the end of the bank holiday weekend.
Tangmere said the decision caused ‘continued distress’ to residents adjoining the airfield and left the impression the village was a ‘poor relation’ to other communities.