DRUG dealing is being targeted at a North Bersted site.
Parish councillors want to take away the shelter used for the illegal activity. They hope the pruning of branches of the willow tree which gives Willow Pond in North Bersted Street its name will stop the regular trading.
But they decided against moving a metal seat they funded years ago and which wraps around the tree because they feared its new site would go on to be adopted by the dealers.
The problem was highlighted by Bersted Parish Council’s deputy chairman, Cllr David Lainchbury, at this month’s meeting.
He said he had seen the dealing taking place as a succession of individuals arrived at the pond and bought a product from a person using the seat and sheltering under the willow’s branches.
He said: “The tree is acting as a parasol for him. Why are we as a parish council keeping these people comfortable while they are doing their business?
“We should move the seat to a tree on the Jubilee Playing Fields and cut some of the very long branches to make the scene more visible.”
He had raised the late night activity with the police, he said.
Cllr Jonathan Spencer, who lives nearby, said: “I know there are drug issues there and around the back of The Spinney. Whatever you do, they will just move to somewhere else.”
He said he was unwilling to have the seat moved. “I know a lot of people read books there. A lot of people thank me for the council putting the seat there,” he said.
The current seat replaced a wooden seat which was sawn in half and torched by vandals several years ago.
But he said the council should arrange for the willow to be pruned. The tree surgery used to be done regularly but it had stopped in recent years.
Parish council chairman Cllr Brian Knight said: “We should not be bowing down to these drug dealers who are committing a criminal offence.
“We paid about £600 to have that seat made by a local blacksmith and I think it would be wrong to take it away.
“If we move it to the playing fields, we may move the drug dealing there.”
He pledged that he would raise the matter at a high level with the police, and possibly the police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, to see what action they would take against the dealing.
He would also speak to Arun and West Sussex councils about any efforts they could make to stop the drug dealing.