Crawley Borough Council to act over homeless camp in wood
A GROUP of homeless people camping in woodland in Three Bridges have issued a defiant message to the council as it looks to evict them.
Crawley Borough Council is trying to force the clearance of tents from the small wooded area off Haslett Avenue East.
Staff from the council's environmental health, antisocial behaviour and planning departments have all held discussions over the unwanted campsite.
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But because the land is privately owned the council cannot force them to leave.
Some of those camped in the woods, next to a BMW dealership, told the News they are not causing any problems.
One man, who asked not to be named, said: "We are not doing anybody any harm. We keep the place tidy. If anyone causes any trouble we send them away.
"If the council moves us we will just find somewhere else to pitch our tents.
"We'll set them up on the cricket green (on the opposite side of Haslett Avenue East) if they like.
"I've been here for years and the guy who owns the land hasn't said anything, so there is no reason for us to move.
"And why hasn't anyone from the council come to talk to us about it?"
When the News visited there were six tents pitched in the woods.
A second resident, who gave his name as William Wallace, said: "If we get kicked out of here, where are we going to go? I've been here for two years.
"The only people in the world who seem to care and want to help us are Richard and Donna at (homeless shelter and day centre) the Open House.
"The council should be trying to help us, not just moving us on."
Other homeless people are known to visit the campers regularly.
When we visited there was a large pile of beer cans next to a fire pit where the occupants cook.
The unnamed resident said they were going to be recycled.
He added: "I've drank and taken drugs here but I clean up after myself. We're not a danger to anyone.
"If people walk past and think it's a bit of an eyesore I would be happy to clean the whole area up. If the owner gives us a skip I will do it."
There were several bags full of cans at the site as well, which the residents say proves they are committed to clearing them away.
The council has requested the landowner makes arrangements for an eviction notice to be served.
It has also asked that the site be cleaned up and for fencing to be put up.
A council spokesman said discussions over the site were ongoing.
Meanwhile, police are working closely with Crawley Open House to tackle street drinking in Three Bridges.
The charity has agreed that if any of its residents or visitors to the day centre are reported to the police for drinking or antisocial behaviour they will be banned from using the facilities.
However, Peter Mansfield-Clark, director of the charity, said many of the people camping in the woods were simply waiting for a bed at the hostel, which can only accommodate 24 people at a time.