A CIRCUS with a Kazak horse-riding troupe will return to Brighton next summer after councillors found themselves unable to act on pleas from animal rights campaigners.

Proposals to amend Brighton and Hove City Council’s animal welfare charter to ban the use of domestic animals in circuses were voted down by the tourism development and culture committee on Thursday, in large part due to legal precedent.

The vote has caused bad blood, with one Green councillor accusing committee chairman councillor Alan Robbins, Labour, of a u-turn.

Cllr Robbins hit back by saying the Greens were indulging in “political point-scoring”.

Meanwhile Zippos Circus, which was the target of the petition, has promised to return to Hove Lawns in 2018.

A petition was submitted to full council in April asking for a ban on circus animals, and the petition was referred to the tourism committee.

But after discussing with legal experts and consulting with councils where, according to petitioners, the ban was in force, local authority officers concluded any ban imposed would be immediately vulnerable to a legal challenge.

The committee voted against a suggestion to put such a charter change out to public consultation.

Green councillor Tom Druitt tweeted afterwards: “Disappointing that despite saying he’d recommend update to Brighton and Hove animal welfare charter, Labour’s Councillor Robbins did the opposite.”

Councillor Alan Robbins told The Argus: “I didn’t change my mind and I didn’t break my promise.

“The legal advice we got was if you do this and it’s challenged, you’ll lose and it’ll cost the council money to fight the case.”

He added: “What’s disgraceful is for the Greens to try to use the well-meaning and passionate people who brought this petition for political point scoring.”

Zippos presented the meeting with its own 2,000-strong petition of support for the circus, which uses horses and budgerigars in its acts. Its director Martin Burton said: “The petition is based on moral, not welfare, grounds and its supporters aggressively seek to impose their extreme political agenda on everyone.”