AN MP has criticised the police’s lack of response to another influx of travellers to Lancing.
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, claimed there was more the police could do to “disrupt the activities of future unwanted visitors to these illegal encampments” and said he had written to the chief constable to express his concerns and ask for a meeting.
Mr Loughton spoke out after the arrival of travellers at Lancing Manor Recreation ground on September 15, following which he said he was “inundated” with calls from angry residents who have had to “put up with substantial inconvenience for a second summer running”.
He added: “Hopefully, they are now well outside the local council boundaries as we have had more than our fair share of problems from these visitors this summer and had hoped we were clear of them for the season.”
He went on to say he was pleased the police had served a section 61 notice on the group – an eviction order – as he claimed they had been reluctant to use it on occasions earlier this year.
Mr Loughton had a meeting with police in August about the issue of travellers descending on Lancing, Worthing and Shoreham, but believed more still needed to be done.
“There are clearly a number of things the police could do to disrupt the activities of future unwanted visitors to these illegal encampments yet have failed to do so and I want to know the reasons why, as do my constituents,” he said. “I am pleased to note this time the police took the registration details of all the vehicles involved as I had asked previously so that they can check the addresses to which they are registered. However, I gather that when the police arrived this time only a few of the caravans had entered the manor ground and they facilitated the rest joining them from the road.
“Why were they not stopped at that point so the rest of the convoy was forced to split off elsewhere? Perhaps if that had happened the whole lot would have got the message to move on to somewhere less inappropriate.”
In response, Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, Worthing district policing commander, said: “Our role remains that of preserving the peace and preventing crime, a role we undertake robustly. In this case, the travellers entered the land through an insecure gate left open by contractors. The incursion on to the land was not a criminal offence and the police have no powers to act to prevent them doing so, a point that was made very clear to Mr Loughton at the meeting in August.
“The limitations of the powers of the police and local authorities in dealing with such matters have also been explained to him. The situation at the weekend was under constant review by the police and local councils and when it became clear from incidents reported to police that the conduct of the travellers was not acceptable, authority was granted for a section 61 order and the police were then able to act quickly in enforcing the removal of the travellers from the site.
“We are working closely with Adur and Worthing Council and West Sussex County Council considering the processes for managing unauthorised encampments. This will be done in consultation with all the interested parties, including local authorities and traveller representatives, in order that we can achieve the best possible outcome for all the communities involved.
“A lot of the issues raised by Mr Loughton were considered at the meeting in August and responses to other points that he has raised will be made to him in due course.”