Travellers have taken over a site on the edge of Brighton where the new county archive is being built.
The site – Woollards Field at Falmer – is also home to wildlife which is legally protected and currently being moved.
After an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon (Thursday 19 May) Brighton and Hove City Council is taking action to evict the travellers.
A court order is believed to have been served on the group which has about 25 vehicles on the site just off Lewes Road.
The emergency meeting was held immediately after the council’s annual meeting at which the new mayor was chosen and Green convenor Bill Randall was confirmed as the new leader of the council.
As the new Green administration listened to the options, at Hove Town Hall, and decided to evict the travellers, one opposition councillor said that the issue was an early tough test.
The councillor pointed out that the Greens had pledged in the party’s election manifesto to campaign for a permanent traveller site in the city.
However, the Greens’ manifesto also promised that the party would protect sensitive and inappropriate locations from unauthorised encampments.
Apart from the wildlife issues at Woollards Field, delays to the building of the new archive are expected to cost about £100,000 a month.
The site will be home to The Keep, the archive for East Sussex and Brighton and Hove as well as special collections belonging to Sussex University.
Councillor Pete West, the council’s cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “It is regrettable that we have to evict this group of travellers but it has not so far been possible to persuade them to move.
“We are taking this action now because of the work going on to move wildlife and because of the importance of The Keep project.
“The wildlife can only be moved in the spring during the breeding season and it is essential that the development of The Keep goes ahead as planned with the wildlife protected.
“The underlying problem is the shortage of traveller sites in the city, which is something we will urgently seek to address.”
The only local site is at Horsdean where there are 23 pitches.
Previous Labour and Conservative administrations have struggled to identify sites which could be used and which also have public support.
Sheepcote Valley is among the sites likely to be considered in the coming months.
One councillor said yesterday evening that the geography of Brighton and Hove meant that there were a limited number of options but that the city was a popular destination.
The councillor said that there was a difficult balance to strike. The council had legal and moral obligations to travellers and to those owning sites that become occupied or living near them.
But nor did the council want to become a magnet for more people than could be accommodated.
A grown up, intelligent and probably difficult conversation would need to take place before too long, the councillor added.