Resident holds protest against travellers

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The Independent Online

A furious resident fed up with travellers camped on land illegally in his home city has staged a one-man protest - and parked his van outside his town hall.

The 40-year-old, who declined to be named, spent five hours sat parked inside his Volkswagen in a doorway at Hove Town Hall in East Sussex yesterday.

He was made his feelings known at what he claimed was an ineffectual response from his council in dealing with travellers camped on land illegally.

Police were called to the town hall by security to speak to him, but as his protest was peaceful and no exits were being blocked they declined to move him on.

He eventually moved when the town hall closed but vowed to take further action to force Brighton and Hove City Council to clamp down on illegal camps.

He suggested people "take matters into their own hands" by building trenches across park entrances to stop travellers from entering.

This week travellers towed 16 caravans on to the city's Withdean Park shortly after a group moved from another park in the area, he said.

Today the protestor, who works in property management, said: "I had threatened the council that I would do something previously when we had multiple visits from travellers in our park and they did nothing about it.

"Every time they move on they leave a trail of rubbish, human excrement and damage to wire fences and plants.

"No-one tends to go in the park with their dogs when there are kids driving dangerously with quad bikes and generally behaving badly."

The man said the council needed to adopt a firmer line against illegal travellers otherwise Brighton and Hove will earn a reputation as a "soft touch" and be besieged.

He went on: "I'm very sympathetic to travellers if they are decent and respectful, but the ones that come into the parks and behave badly can f*** off, to be honest.

"It's just not on.

"Brighton is a really cool city and that's half the reason why I moved here because it's relaxed, but there is relaxed and there is plain stupidity.

"What we have is a council which is opening the door to this kind of inappropriate activity."

The man was supported by Brighton and Hove City councillor Dawn Barnett, who brought him a cup of tea as he sat in his van.

She said: "It's absolutely horrendous at the moment. The council says we haven't got any more travellers than previous years but we are being inundated.

"They are bringing their filth, they go to the toilet in the bushes and they intimidate residents. People need to realise that we are fed up about it."

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: "We're obviously aware of the protest.

"It was perfectly peaceful and the gentleman left fairly quickly, moving his van of his own accord.

"We're assuring residents that we act as quickly as the law allows to clear sensitive sites, including the one he was protesting about.

"We had also already decided to put earth banks around this and other important parks to prevent vehicles being driven onto them in future."