Caravans removed from South Downs National Park after camping unlawfully since November
RESIDENTIAL caravans unlawfully settled at the South Downs National Park have been removed.
The beauty spot’s planning boss said the direct action was a ‘last resort’ after the vehicles arrived on an agricultural field off Long Road in Soberton, north of Wickham, last year.
An enforcement notice was served by the South Downs National Park Authority in November asking the campers to leave the site and return it to its original state.
But this was ignored, spurring the authority to team up with Winchester City Council to hire a contractor to remove the caravans.
In an operation on Tuesday and Wednesday, they were shifted alongside scrap vehicles, gas bottles and rubble.
Tim Slaney, director of planning at the South Downs National Park Authority, said: ‘Direct action is rarely used and is often a last resort.
‘The decision was however reached having exhausted all other options.
‘The division of the land means that, if action is not taken on this particular set of events, it is possible that further unauthorised harmful development will occur.
‘This would undermine the first purpose of the national park to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area, and frustrate local communities and others who abide by the planning system that we all benefit from long-term.'
On top of the enforcement notice, a letter was delivered to the occupants of the camp in April, outlining proposals for removal.
This invitation to comply was again ignored and the caravans remained in place.
Strategic director at Winchester City Council, Richard Botham said: ‘Winchester City Council and South Downs National Park Authority have worked together on this case and we are pleased that this joint operation has been successful.
‘Where necessary, the city council will act robustly to ensure planning policies are upheld.’
The camp contained one static and one touring caravan and contravened the land's lawful planning guidelines, which specify it is for agricultural use only.
It also went against a restriction imposed in 2004 which prevents fencing being put up around plots.