The long-awaited redevelopment of the traveller site at Horsdean has been put back several weeks after concerns were raised about water contamination at the site.
The site is now due to close at the end of July so work to build 12 permanent pitches alongside the 21 existing transit pitches can begin. The work is expected to take a year to complete and once reopened, it’s hoped will be a solution to the high number of unauthorised encampments in the city.
Meanwhile, the council is working with Southern Water and the Environment Agency to identify other sites where unauthorised camps could pose a risk of water contamination following the eviction of a camp from Surrenden Fields last month on those grounds.
A council spokesperson, said: “The delay in commencing work on the new permanent traveller site at Horsdean follows additional design work that was undertaken to ensure a satisfactory solution to drainage in this environmentally-sensitive area, along with the council and South Downs National Park Authority giving a community group more time to make representations in relation to the amended drainage design, which needed sign-off by SDNPA as one of our pre-commencement planning conditions.
“We have now received confirmation that we have met all of our pre-commencement planning conditions, so can move forward with the temporary closure of the site. The families currently living at Horsdean have been aware of the closure for some time and are making arrangements to re-locate while work is carried out.
“We are hoping that work on the new permanent travellers’ site will start towards the end of July.
“In relation to the Surrenden Field eviction, each encampment has to be assessed separately and this would be the case in any subsequent encampment at Surrenden Field. The issue of the proximity of travellers to the Southern Water infrastructure on this land would be taken into account in any assessment.
“We are in discussions with Southern Water and the Environment Agency to establish if there are any other locations in the city they may consider a high risk of water contamination.”
The proposal for waste water management at Horsdean is that both the permanent and transit traveller sites will be linked up to the mains sewer. This will involve directional drilling under the A27 to join with the mains sewer in Vale Avenue.
The council says this option is much cheaper than other options when on-going costs are considered, and also ensures no foul water enters the water course. It says road ‘run off’ will be comprehensively treated to ensure all oil is removed.
The new site is hoped to help reduce unauthorised encampments both by providing space for those who wish to use official sites, but also because police can only use Section 62a of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to move on travellers if there are official transit pitches available in the city for more than three months.
It’s hoped by freeing up more transit pitches by providing permanent pitches, the police will be able to use this power more often.
If an unauthorised camp is at a sensitive site, or there is antisocial behaviour, police are able to move it on quickly without other pitches being free.
The plans for the new site were drawn up by Brighton and Hove City Council and will be funded by a government grant.
They were approved by the South Downs National Park, in whose jurisdiction the site falls, in February last year but then delayed after Eric Pickles said the Government was considering calling them in.
However, he changed his mind in June, removing the final red tape hurdle for the redevelopment.
Meanwhile, the number of unauthorised encampments doubled last year, and in March, Brighton police commander Nev Kemp warned there would be more while the site is closed.
Last week, new council leader Warren Morgan pledged to review the powers available to the council and police in dealing with travellers.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.