A cabinet minister has called in the plans for a permanent travellers site in Brighton.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will review the decision to approve the plans for the Horsdean site.
The scheme was approved by the South Downs National Park Authority Planning Committee last Thursday (13 February).
The proposal was submitted by Brighton and Hove City Council. It allows for a 12-pitch extension to the current transit site, making a total of 33 pitches, housing up to 150 travellers and all their vehicles at any one time.
The proposed site is in the South Downs National Park.
The announcement that the planning permission would be reviewed was welcomed by Patcham Conservatives.
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald spoke against the application at last week’s national park authority planning meeting.
Councillor Theobald argued that the proposed new site would contravene national planning guidance issued just last month that traveller sites should be built in areas such as Horsdean only in exceptional circumstances.
Two local experts in hydrology – one a former managing director of Southern Water – also spoke against the application.
They raised serious concerns about the effects a new site would have on both 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.
Councillor Theobald said: “I am very pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to the people of Patcham and beyond and decided that these ill-thought through plans need further consideration.
“I campaigned long and hard for the national park to be established in order to protect the South Downs from inappropriate development.
“I feel that last week’s decision by their Planning Committee was a betrayal of all that I, and many others, fought for.
“If this is going to be allowed then what is to stop other downland sites being developed for conventional housing, particularly with the planning inspector recently telling the city council that their housing target is far too low?”
Fellow Patcham ward councillor, Carol Theobald, added: “Given the regular flooding we see at Patcham, it would be absolute madness to tag another large settlement on to a sewerage system that is clearly struggling to cope with the current levels of water entering it.
“The Horsdean site itself is also prone to flooding and concreting over large parts of it will further exacerbate ground water run-off.
“We don’t feel that these concerns, and the concerns our experts have about pollution of the water supply which serves the whole of Brighton and Hove, have been taken seriously by the SDNPA committee.
“Horsdean simply isn’t a viable location for such a large traveller camp.”
Conservative candidate for Patcham ward Karen Miles said: “I always thought the A27 bypass was supposed to act as a corset around the city beyond which no further significant development would take place.
“Therefore, I very much hope, for the sake of local residents and all those who value the unique South Downs landscape, that Eric Pickles overturns this decision.”
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