Gypsies ordered to leave Harting site

Flashback to last year when police escorted the gipsy caravans through South Harting to their site at Three Cornered Piece
Flashback to last year when police escorted the gipsy caravans through South Harting to their site at Three Cornered Piece

The battle of Three Cornered Piece is over after a landmark victory by the council over an illegal gypsy encampment at East Harting.

The fight has finally come to an end as a High Court judge ordered the gypsies to leave and remove unauthorised work from the land.

Chichester District Council leader Heather Caird said the landmark ruling proved the council ‘will not tolerate these breaches in law’.

The decision comes after years of anger in Harting, with the last straw being when police escorted a huge caravan onto the illegal site in February, 2012. Villagers booed and shook their fists at the convey as it made its way through Harting.

“If it was going to be two vans kept clean and tidy there would not be much objection, but two leads to 12, and then 24 and before you know it we have another Dale Farm on our hands,” said parish council chairman David Barnard.

The council won its legal challenge over illegal works to the greenfield site on Wednesday, March 20.

Portsmouth County Court ruled the defendants, Christopher Francis Searle and Jimmy Roy Searle, were in breach of an injunction granted in January, 2010, to stop any further works on the land.

The defendants were sentenced to 28 days in prison for contempt of court but will only to serve the time if they fail to remove unauthorised works from the land by September 17.

The unauthorised work includes treatment works, widening of the access track, an area of hard standing and a concrete base on the land.

They were ordered to leave the site by August 16, and will also have to pay the council’s legal costs.

Heather Caird said she was ‘delighted’ with the ruling.

“We will do all we can to preserve the beauty of the district and will take action against offenders when necessary,” she said.

The district council took enforcement action demanding the removal of the mobile homes in 2009.

The gypsy family appealed and their case was called in by local government secretary Eric Pickles.

The resulting High Court battle rejected the gypsy’s appeal despite a planning inspector recommending Mr Pickles should grant temporary three-year planning permission.