A permanent traveller site in Brighton could be delayed further after a Government minister stepped in.
Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, has been asked to “call in” proposals for 12 permanent traveller pitches at the existing Horsdean transit site.
His department has issued an article 25 – which effectively puts the planning application on hold while Government officials consider whether to take responsibility for the final decision.
And this could see the decision being taken by the planning inspectorate or Mr Pickles.
The move comes just days after the South Down National Park planning committee gave the go-ahead for the scheme.
The prospect that the decision could be called in has been welcomed by local Conservative councillors, who warn that the permanent site could allow for further development in the national park and add further strain on the local sewerage system.
Calling in the decision would add considerable delays for the permanent site, which received Government funding of £1.7 million more than five years ago.
If granted, the proposals would increase the Braypool Lane site’s capacity to 33 pitches capable of housing up to 150 travellers.
The site would include a children’s play area and manager’s office and each pair of pitches would have a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and patio.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s Conservative group leader Coun Geoffrey Theobald said: “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 councillor Carol Theobald said it would be “absolute madness” to add another large settlement on to a sewerage system that is “struggling to cope” with current water levels.
Green councillor Pete West, chairman of the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “The Tories’ scrabbling around to find ways to delay a much-needed site will only lead to more unauthorised encampments in the city’s open spaces.
“The National Park looked carefully at our detailed proposal, and agreed by a clear majority that this was the best place for this facility.”
Tim Slaney, South Downs authority's director of planning, said: “After the SDNPA Planning Committee had made the decision but prior to this decision being issued by the SDNPA, a direction was issued by the Secretary of State requesting that he be given the chance to consider the matter.
"Given the controversial nature of many traveller site applications, we respect the Secretary of States’ decision and await his deliberations. “