Plans for traveller ‘transit’ site in West Sussex

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Leading councillors across West Sussex and Sussex Police have been working together to find a suitable solution to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments in the county.

Council leaders across West Sussex are recommending to their councillors that they enter into a multi-agency partnership agreement to manage and reduce unauthorised encampments in the area.

As part of this work, councillors at Chichester District Council will discuss possible plans to place a short-stay transit site for travellers on the outskirts of Chichester.

Following the introduction of a similar site, East Sussex has seen a significant reduction in the amount of unauthorised encampments and it is hoped that this could be replicated in West Sussex.

It is hoped that it would reduce the significant cost and disruption to the taxpayer and local land owners caused by unauthorised encampments, as well as providing the police with greater powers to take action.

All councils have been looking for a suitable site that could be used for this purpose. As part of Chichester District Council’s redevelopment of its Westhampnett Depot, it has identified half an acre of land that could be used to accommodate nine short-stay pitches. This has been identified as a suitable location, due to its proximity to main roads and amenities.

If the project is given the go-ahead and planning permission is granted, it could be introduced by March 2015.

All councils across the county would share the costs of providing the scheme and West Sussex Council would be responsible for running the site and developing the multi-agency enforcement protocols. It is also hoped that the scheme would attract grant funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.

“We are in a very difficult situation because the district alone has had 51 unauthorised encampments in the past year. We need to find a suitable solution that provides an appropriate stopping site for the Gypsy and Traveller community and reduces disruption to our local communities. Research and evidence shows that a transit site is the best solution,” said Cllr Heather Caird, Leader of Chichester District Council.

“The proposed location is surrounded by our depot and is close to the main road, which is why I am convinced that it is a good proposal. If the project is given the go-ahead we will work closely with those who live and work close to the proposed site. We have sent out letters to make them aware of the proposals and explained the steps we will take to involve them if it is agreed by Council,” she adds.

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, said: “I am very aware of the issues surrounding unauthorised encampments in West Sussex and the disruption they cause to local residents. Many communities across the county are affected at some point during the year and the concerns from local people form a significant part of the correspondence to my office.

“I have been working closely with all the partner agencies and am fully supportive of their work with Sussex Police to resolve this on-going issue.

“A transit site will enable Sussex Police to use all the powers at their disposal and direct the unauthorised encampment to the transit site or instruct them to leave the county and not return within three months.

“I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that Sussex Police maintains a consistent approach. It is also vital that local people are kept fully informed at every stage and I will continue to make sure that the police are working closely with councillors and other agencies to resolve matters as and when they occur.”

Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council said: “This was a project that was first put forward by the West Sussex Cooperative, a multi-agency group that is focused on the achievement of specific strategic priorities that benefit residents.

“I share the view that this will help reduce the disruption to the taxpayer and local land owners caused by unauthorised encampments, as well as providing the police with greater powers to take action.”