SHEEPCOTE Valley is one of three sites in Brighton and Hove earmarked for an incinerator. But, as CHRIS BAKER reports, for people living nearby it is just the latest instalment in nearly 40 years of broken promises.

WHEN Ron Jameson and his pals set about building their own homes in Wilson Avenue in the early Sixties they were promised the neighbouring Sheepcote Valley would shortly become a green and pleasant land.

The old Brighton Borough Council told the 28 self-builders that the land dropping down from the racecourse to the sea beside their new homes would look like "paradise valley" by the mid-Seventies.

It never really worked out that way. The valley has never become the green idyll the self-builders were promised.

Now it is earmarked as one of the possible sites in Brighton and Hove for a waste incinerator.

Mr Jameson, now 62, who watched his three children grow up in the Wilson Avenue home he built with his own hands, said: "They are going against every promise that has ever been made if they put it there."

Self-building was popular at the time. It was the only way many people could afford their own homes. They got together in self-build housing associations, borrowed money from the council and then drew lots to find which plot their new homes would be built on.

For the self-builders, the prospect of an incinerator is part of a familiar pattern.

They were promised the rubbish tip would close by the mid-Seventies. But it stayed open and was being run so badly by 1977 that local government watchdogs found Brighton Council guilty of maladministration.

They were promised the valley would be returned to nature but East Sussex County Council tried to build a waste transfer station in the valley.

That plan, which faced stiff opposition from local people and the borough council, was thrown out after a public inquiry in 1979.

The inquiry's report was damning.

For many years, the report said, assurances had been given that tipping would stop in the mid-Seventies.

It added it had been a "firm and much publicised" objective that once tipping was over, the whole of Sheepcote Valley should be used for recreation, education and agriculture.

It continued: "There is prima facie evidence that people committed themselves to buying properties in Wilson Avenue on the strength of the known planning situation.

"It is no wonder that the local residents feel completely betrayed by those responsible for the safeguarding of their future environment now that they are faced with the possibility of having another waste operation, in the form of a transfer station, only a short distance from their doorsteps.

"They are entitled, after all the years of detriment to their living standards, to have the opportunity of enjoying the tranquil outlook over an open and green valley that they continually have been promised."

Mr Jameson, who headed years of campaigning against the tip and plans for development, said: "Brighton Council has always said it would not consider it for a transfer station so how can they consider it for an incinerator?"

He moved away from Wilson Avenue in 1987. Other self-builders are still there. His sister, Betty Young, moved into her self-built home with her late husband, Derek, in 1961.

Her home is opposite the old tip, which closed after the inquiry, only to be replaced with a civic amenity site to collect and sort rubbish.

Because the Sheepcote Valley has been identified as a possible site does not mean an incinerator will be built there, according to John Ballance, who sits on the present Brighton and Hove Council's environment committee.

The council was at an early stage of the selection process, he said, and the valley's planning history might mean it is rejected.

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