Hundreds of sporty youngsters have been left disappointed after a running event was cancelled because travellers pitched up in a car park.

Organisers pulled the plug on the Brighton and Hove Primary Schools Cross Country Championship yesterday (November 19) after three caravans moved onto Waterhall over the weekend.

More than 600 pupils from schools across the city were due to take part in the race today (November 20).

However, councillor Pete West, the chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s environment committee, said the decision to cancel the event had been “needless”.

He said: “A very small group of travellers moved onto the Waterhall car park over the weekend. Council staff carried out a joint visit with the police yesterday to assess the impact on the local community, before deciding the next course of action.

“It is very disappointing for the runners that the decision has been taken by the organisers to needlessly cancel the cross country event without even waiting for the proper checks to first be carried out.”

Parent's anger

One angry mother, who did not wish to be named, said: “The children have worked very hard for this.

“My son is only nine but he was up really early doing his one kilometre timing himself.

“It’s the first time he has been picked by his school and he’s upset that it has been cancelled over something like this.

“It’s unacceptable that so many children across the city have been stopped from taking part in sport because of three vans.”

Race organiser Andy Marchant said the race could not have gone ahead with travellers in the car park.

He said: “I can’t understand why anyone is complaining. The event will be rearranged for the new year.

“There are generators outside the vans along with unsupervised children and animals running around everywhere. It doesn’t matter if there was one caravan or 100, I would still have cancelled it.”

Conservative councillor Ken Norman, whose Withdean ward includes Waterhall, said “almost nothing had been done” to stop travellers moving into the car park.

He said: “We’ve been battling this for years. There have been barriers erected to protect it but people have cut the locks and got through.

“There’s never any proper enforcement at Waterhall.”

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