A CONTROVERSIAL £1.25m travellers’ transit site is due to open next week in Westhampnett.
The first transit site to be built in West Sussex is designed to reduce the number of ‘unauthorised encampments’ in the county.
We have to balance the needs of the local community and the needs of the gypsy and traveller populationJosef Ransley
“It is a delicate balance we have had to face. We have to balance the needs of the local community and the needs of the gypsy and traveller population,” said Josef Ransley, Chichester District Council’s cabinet member responsible for support services.
“Our district alone had 72 unauthorised encampments over the past two years and there were more across the county which incurred significant cost and disruption to local communities and land owners.”
He said research showed the site would provide an ‘appropriate stopping site’ for the gypsy and traveller community, reduce disruption to communities and provide police with greater powers to take action.
West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith said she was ‘really pleased’ to see the new site opening on March 16.
“Chichester District Council has worked extremely hard on this project with the support of the county council, district and borough councils across West Sussex and other groups,” she said.
“It is important the accommodation needs of all gypsies and travellers who pass through our county are adequately addressed, and the disruption that an unauthorised encampment can cause to local residents and land owners is minimised.”
Authorities have been full of praise for the site, despite villagers in Westhampnett previously voicing their strong discontent at the scheme.
The site is located off Stane Street, in Westhampnett, close to the refuse depot and opposite land planned for 300 houses.
The new site includes nine short-stay pitches, toilet and shower facilities and an office for the manager of the site.
The site will be managed by West Sussex County Council and it is hoped it will be operational by Easter, according to Chichester District Council.
The scheme has been funded with a £630,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency and £620,000 of funding from the eight councils across West Sussex.
The county’s police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “The facilities available at this new site will help to alleviate the problems faced by the travelling community across Sussex. Transit sites have the purpose of meeting the needs of gypsies and travellers as they visit an area or need to use a site as a temporary resting place as they travel through the county.”
The existence of the site means groups of travellers who refuse to go to Westhampnett when they turn up illegally on someone’s land can be escorted out of the county by police. Before, the landowner had to seek an eviction order which could take several days.