Plans for Permanent Traveller site to go ahead

Sarah Green June 29, 2014

Plans for a permanent Traveller site which have been approved by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) will now not be called in by the Secretary of State.

Plans for  permaneant travellers site at Horsdean
Plans for permaneant travellers site at Horsdean

Plans for the site, adjacent to the recently re-opened Traveller transit site at Horsdean, have been drawn up by Brighton & Hove City Council and funded by a government grant.

The SDNPA undertook a full public consultation before making the decision in February 2014.

Horsdean was chosen following an extensive selection process which explored 50 possible locations. The proposal is to create a permanent traveller site by extending the existing transit site on the former Horsdean Recreation Ground, which was cut off with the building of the A27

Horsedean travellers site

The plans show 12 new permanent pitches alongside 21 retained transit pitches. Each permanent pitch will consist of space for a static caravan and other vehicles, plus a kitchen, bathroom and dayroom in an amenity block.

The plans will also see the Traveller Liaison Team move to a management building on site, to ensure closer and better working with the Traveller community and to reduce management costs.

Cllr Pete West

Cllr Pete West, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “I am relieved the Secretary of State has stopped thinking about calling this in, so we can now get on with building these much needed additional traveller pitches.

“The impact unauthorised encampments on the city’s open spaces has on local communities cannot be underestimated coupled with the expense of eviction. The permanent site will help ease this issue and give greater stability for travelling families and strengthen existing links with the local community that already exist with the transit site. By adding pitch capacity it will also reduce the likelihood of unauthorized encampments.”

The site will be aimed at Travellers with a local link, many who already regularly occupy spaces on the transit site. This should increase the council’s capacity to deal with unauthorised encampments, although the permanent Traveller site will not provide a complete solution.

Tenants will have to sign a secure tenancy that will, like all social housing, ensure that any anti-social behaviour will not be tollerated.

However, local Conservatives are calling on Brighton & Hove City Council and the South Downs National Park Authority to work with local experts to resolve serious concerns about water quality on the site.

The application was agreed by the South Downs National Park Authority in February. This was despite local water experts and the Patcham & Hollingbury Conservation Association (PAHCA) expressing serious concerns about the impacts of this large new development (a total of 33 pitches, housing up to 150 travellers) on the quality of the drinking water in the aquifer and extraction adit that sits directly below Horsdean and also on the amount of waste water carried from the site through the already overrun sewerage system that serves Patcham.

The site is also prone to flooding. As a result of these concerns the SDNPA Planning Committee agreed that the development should not begin until the Council has worked with the Environment Agency and PAHCA to address the water issues.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald

Patcham Ward Councillor, Geoffrey Theobald, said: ”There remain major concerns around both water quality and drainage and the fact that the Council will be creating a sizeable new settlement in the South Downs National Park. This comes just a week after the decision by UNESCO to designate the Brighton & Lewes Downs area an International Biosphere. The Secretary of State has put the ball back in the Council and the National Park Authority’s court to resolve these water problems and they must now seek all the local knowledge and expertise that they can to work up a viable drainage and sewerage system. I am far from convinced that this will be possible without huge expense to the council taxpayer.”

WEB.200Hove & Portslade MP, Mike Weatherly, added: ”Now that the Secretary of State has said that this decision will not be overridden, I would urge the South Downs National Park Authority to address the serious environmental concerns that have been raised about the development.”