POLICE were unable to stop thousands of people from swarming over a patch of idyllic woodland near Arundel over the weekend.
More than 2,000 people from across the country descended on Houghton Forest, between Arundel and Bury, in the early hours of Sunday morning (April 8), to begin the two-night party.
So-called “ravers” caused untold damage to the woodland site, with a car left burnt out in the forest, while countless bags of rubbish and spent cylinders of pressurised nitrous oxide were strewn across the area.
Police believe the rave was organised over a variety of social networking sites, without the permission of any local authorities or the landowner, the Forestry Commission.
However, because of the sheer scale of the rave and the lack of available resources over the weekend, police were unable to intervene and shut down the event.
Superintendent Grenville Wilson, from Sussex Police’s operations department, said that before forcibly closing any rave, a risk assessment had to be taken.
He said: “Where we can, we will attend a report of a rave at the earliest opportunity to try to bring it to a safe conclusion. When a large number of people are already at the site it is not always possible for us to shut down the rave with the police resources available at that time – which was the situation in the early hours of Sunday morning.”
However, for John Brown, owner of the Whiteways Lodge Café, this meant almost two days of chaos, and a bill of about £2,000.
Mr Brown, who has owned the café for more than three years and lives in Slindon, said his business was within a few hundred yards of the rave, and that as revellers left the site they ripped out benches and broke fencing around the café.
He said: “It’s caused a great deal of hassle, not only for me and the people who work at the café, but for all those who cherish the land.
“This stretch of woodland means a lot to people and many are quite upset by the rave, myself included.”
He added: “A Fiat Punto had been completely destroyed and set alight. If it had been a week earlier, the fire could have wrecked the forest.”
A spokesman from the Forestry Commission criticised ravers, saying it would be the taxpayer who would ultimately suffer. He said: “Raves cost the taxpayer a lot of money to clean up and repair the damage afterwards, and this is money we would rather spend on facilities for everyone’s enjoyment of the forests.”
Police said a 21-year-old woman from Norfolk was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive, possession of a class A drug and having an article with intent to destroy or damage property. She was released on bail until June 9.