The cost of creating a permanent travellers site on the edge of Brighton has risen to £2.4 million, a councillor said today (Wednesday 1 July).Lee Wares, a Conservative councillor for Patcham ward, said that he had learnt about the £700,000 rise in cost from Brighton and Hove City Council staff.The original £1.7 million cost of creating 12 permanent pitches at the Horsdean site was covered by a government grant.
But, Councillor Wares said, the £700,000 overspend will have to be met by council tax payers.
The existing site, which has 23 transit pitches, will be converted to a site with 12 permanent pitches and 21 transit pitches.
Councillor Wares said that, with minimal works proposed to the 21 remaining transit pitches, the new 12 permanent pitches are thought to now be costing about £2.4 million – or a staggering £200,000 a pitch.
Councillor Wares said: “It is an unbelievable amount of money to be spent on essentially creating 12 concrete hard stands each with a toilet and shower hut. For £200,000 you could build a fabulous four-bedroom house.”
This extra £700,000 also appears to exclude the costs associated with any temporary site that might be established should Horsdean’s redevelopment take place, he said.
The Horsdean site is directly over a man-made adit – or tunnel – that collects water drawn by the Patcham pumping station, he added. As a result the Environment Agency requires expensive drainage systems and pollution control measures to be installed – as well as flood defences – to protect the city’s drinking water supply.
Councillor Wares said: “These measures, however, are not the end of the matter.
“The Environment Agency has dictated that no fuels, paints, bleaches, cleaning detergents and other like chemicals and products must be used or stored on site.
“This is to prevent the pollution control measures being degraded as well as the risk of contamination of the drinking water supply.
“However, this, practically, makes it impossible for travelling families to use the site”
“I’m also concerned that once all this money has been spent, the 21 transit pitches that could accommodate 100 to 150 people will only be served with four toilets as opposed to the permanent pitches that have a toilet each.
“It’s hardly a healthy, proper and reasonable solution for the travelling community”
The opposition Conservative group leader Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said “This is a totally unacceptable situation. Not only will risks remain to the city’s water supply but council tax payers will have to fork out an extra £700,000.
“Councillor Wares has rightly asked the administration to suspend this project immediately so that urgent reviews of the health risks and funding can be investigated.
“With the project apparently due to start in four to six weeks’ time it is astonishing that no committee has been briefed or asked for funds by council officers.”
Councillor Wares asked for further information from the council but, he said, specific details have not been provided. This had forced him to submit “freedom of information” requests.
He added: “It is really worrying when councillors have to resort to making FoI requests.”