27 August 2023
Addressing Concerns at Goring Greensward
Local residents have been in touch over the past week with concerns about a group of travellers illegally occupying space on the Goring Greensward.
I visited the site and spoke with local residents, Councillors and representatives of Sussex Police.
We all recognise the impact such encampments have on local residents and businesses.
When they first arrived, an assessment was made by Sussex Police and it was determined that there were no grounds to exercise their emergency powers to require an immediate moving on.
Their most recent update is that there has been very little in the way of anti-social behaviour reported to the police. Without further grounds, they cannot justify an immediate notice to go.
Should any such behaviour arise, West Sussex County Council are the lead agency for such matters, supporting the districts and boroughs.
WSCC has secured a court date of the 12th of September to request a court order for repossession of the land and for this group to be required to move on.
Residents have been encouraged to advise the police of any ASB via email@example.com or in cases of immediate risk via 999.
Worthing Borough Council have declined to use their powers under the Public Space Protection Order that prohibits this type of camping.
Legislative changes over the past year have increased the capacity of local authorities to respond faster and more effectively to illegal traveller incursions and activities. It is important that these new capacities are made use of.
We all share in a desire for a summer without illegal encampments disrupting the peace of local communities. Residents should not fear leaving their homes to enjoy the calm and serene splendour of our seaside.
18 June 2023
Responding to Incursions on Langmeads Field
A small group of travellers have been reported in Langmeads Field since earlier this weekend. We acknowledge that it is a small family group who have suggested that they do not intend to leave soon.
I am grateful to the residents who were quickly in touch.
Police have attended and I have already been in close contact with the police, Arun Councillors and Parish Councillors.
Last year, the police and council worked effectively together to move on those who had illegally occupied Goring Greensward and Langmeads Field.
I have campaigned over recent years for an unequivocal change to enable our police to respond effectively and quickly to encampments and so that areas targeted by these groups are protected from future incursions for years to come.
A major concern last year was that court orders lasted from only a few months to a year, this is wrong. A reasonable suggestion I have made to the Home Secretary in subsequent months is that orders be extended to five years, at least. Though concerns abated over the winter months, work in Parliament did not stop.
Subsequent legislative changes have sensibly increased the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Act introduces a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress.
In addition, the legislation amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. This is a step in the right direction but, as I have stated previously, not an adequate amount.
Only a minority of travellers are causing problems.
We desire for a summer without illegal encampments disrupting the peace of local communities and from becoming a disruptance and danger for residents.
25 November 2022
Sussex Roundtable on Shared Responses to Illegal Activities
During a virtual round-table with Sussex Police and Sussex councils, we discussed progress on developing a coherent and decisive response to illegal traveller encampments and activities.
Constituents and communities continue to be extremely concerned about the controlling and policing of unauthorised caravan incursions on public, community and private land.
The summer of 2022 was particularly difficult both in terms of the number of incidents as well as anti-social behaviour above levels in previous years.
It is right to understand and consider the travelling community culture; it is also right to require them not to break laws or cause trouble to settled communities.
The police and local authorities will continue to cooperate to ensure we achieve the best possible results. We can be reassured by their ongoing proactive work during these quieter winter months.
Legislative changes over the past year should have increased the capacity of the police and local authorities enabling faster and more effective responses to illegal traveller incursions and activities.
Separately, I have also written to the Chief Constable asking whether any further changes to the law and regulation would be helpful and also requesting feedback on the extent the recent changes might prove effective.
We should be able to expect greater cooperation and enhanced powers will have a positive effect.
Public Session with Affected Members of the Local Community:
04 August 2022
We were glad to be able to accept the offer to welcome the PCC, Katy Bourne OBE, to meet affected residents and groups at the Ferring Village Hall on the evening of Wednesday 3rd August.
The meeting was organised at short notice. I am sorry if anyone was unable to attend. Some people sent their apologies together with points to be considered.
This year, our experience of incursions of unauthorised caravanning has included escalated levels of criminality such as thefts from shops and damage to private and public property. Additionally, local authorities have had to clear up the unfathomable mess left behind including animal and human waste as well as broken glass and other dangerous items that would have rendered playing areas far from safe.
The commissioner and I heard about wrongdoing throughout the last month and specifically on the 17th of July. Residents told us how they had to protect their private, communal and public lands for fear of losing them through breaking and entry.
There was discussion about the limits to the powers of local authorities and the police, with questions as to whether the powers that do exist had been used as soon and as forcefully as was justified.
The commissioner said she was actively discussing the issues with the operational commander.
As MP, I had observed the high level of disturbance this year. I have heard the abuse and diatribe by some of the people involved. This year they had high-class caravans and cars; their behaviour was far below high-class.
I have engaged with the Home Secretary to ensure that she understands fully the issues our communities face.
The rights of residents need to be protected. The police and local authorities must have effective powers to use where and when necessary.
We must work together to control the situation, giving local residents confidence that the law is on their side.
A comprehensive report of the views and concerns shared last night will be put together and presented to the PCC and relevant offices. If possible, it will be made available on my website.
26 July 2022
Update on Recent Illegal Activities relating to Traveller Encampments
The situation continues to escalate. Every green recreation space is either defended or has been occupied.
Last week I sent a report to the Home Secretary ahead of visiting the sites on Friday. I have now written urgently again to the Home Secretary, copied to council, parish and police leaders.
A simple but urgent request is for her to meet local leaders and representatives to discuss this critical situation involving incursions by caravans and travellers.
I have discussed the details of the problems with the Sussex Police Chief Constable. We know Angmering too has been affected. The Police and Crime Commissioner has today also said she is prepared to come to meet local representatives.
Residents rightly want effective action to avoid the intense disruption of their own peaceful enjoyment and use of public and private land. The ongoing lack of action to address the repeated incisions is not acceptable.
We can all appreciate the actions of the police and local authorities and we see first-hand the work they are doing. They do what they can within the existing law. More resources are needed for the local councils and the police with their valiant support officers.
When the intensity and the scale of the occupations grow, the responses must also change.
Reports of attempted and actual forced entry into estates and community grounds are highly distressing. Reports of thefts from shops, vehicles and general illegal activity are deplorable. The situation is frightening for the vulnerable and the elderly.
I thank all agencies who have updated me hourly.
Bollards have been broken and historical flint walls scrapped down to enable passage. Council teams have been ready to replace and reinforce protections of green spaces once travellers have been moved on.
I shall continue to support effective coordination between police in Arun and Worthing, and for each local authority to have a reduction of the disruption and costs of managing unauthorised occupations with their consequential issues.
I hope the Home Secretary will join me and our council and police leaders to see why we need more laws to combat this illegal and criminal activity. Whilst respecting the nomadic choices of the group, criminal behaviour is not acceptable.
Many are doing what they can, when they can. More is needed.
20 July 2022
Recent Traveller Encampments in and around Worthing and Arun
Many residents will share in concern at recent illegal encampments of travellers.
Last week the police and council worked effectively together to move on those who had illegally occupied Goring Greensward.
Over the weekend, more travellers illegally broke into and occupied Langmeads in East Preston.
In both cases, my team and I were immediately in touch with both the police and the local councils.
The nomadic life is an accepted and protected tradition and community. As with any community or group of citizens, protected or otherwise, they must respect the law of the land.
There needs to be a review to rebalance effective action to avoid quiet communities having their public and community lands occupied by up to 100 unauthorised caravans and cars.
I have written to the Home Secretary asking her to come together with local councils and police to discuss practical proposals to manage and reduce the adverse consequences faster and to implement the necessary changes to better tackle illegal encampments.
In particular, it should not be possible with impunity to take away a historic wall, or other physical barriers, to obtain illegal access to public areas.
The law must be reformed to enable our police to respond effectively and quickly to encampments and so that areas targeted by these groups are protected from future incursions for years to come.
Travellers’ incursions cannot continue with forced entry or serious adverse impact on the settled community.
We share in gratitude to the police and council officers who have acted swiftly and resolutely on each of these occasions.